It was almost midnight and there was no time to waste. Rosa had already hopped out of the hay carriage and was headed towards the Palazzo. Cristiano was stationed in an alleyway a few blocks from the palazzo. He and his men were there with a large group of people Rosa had never seen before.
"I see you brought company?" Rosa asked quizzically, not taking kindly to the courtesans and brutes before her.
"More like reinforcements. I scanned the area of the Seta earlier, there was an increased presence of guards at the gates, but the rooftop archers are missing, probably off taking part in the festivities of Carnevale." Cristano replied with a playful nudge. "I see you are in a better mood my sister."
"Aren't you observant?" Rosa replied fighting back a smile. "What is the plan?"
"You will see in time, follow me."
Cristano took the lead and began walking towards the Palazzo's main gates with nothing short of a mob following him. When they were within eyesight of the Seta, Cristiano reached into his pocket and threw a pouch of coins to one of the courtesans. Once she weighed the bag in her hand and proved it to be satisfactory, she and her group of ten girls strutted off towards the Seta. Half the girls went around to the side gate, the other half the front. Cristiano could tell just by looking at the guards that they too, had taken part in the festivities of Carnevale. They were hollering and bantering on at the girls as they seduced them back towards the alleyway the thieves and mercenaries were now hiding in. Twelve men drunkenly filed into the alleyway behind the courtesans and once they were out of the sight of the Seta, the mercenaries pounced. There was a short cry from the head mercenary as they descended upon them. Before the guards could comprehend what was happening they were all unconscious, having been suffocated or hit over the head with the blunt end of a mercenary's axe. Cristiano was clear he did not want a mess made of the men; blood on the uniforms would ruin his entire plan. The thieves then disarmed and disrobed the men, disposing of some of the bodies in a near by wagon of hay. The last few, Cristiano propped them up along a wall in a nearby alley wearing nothing but their skivvies. It was Carnevale after all, this was not the worst thing that any passer-by would see, but it would be the most humorous.
Rosa didn't remove any of her original clothing. Even though the thieves had given her the smallest uniform of the pack, the extra length of the guard pants pooled at her feet. Cristiano, already outfitted in his Venetian armor strolled over snickering at Rosa.
"I don't think blue is your color bella." Rosa pursed her lips. Cristiano knelt down.
"Here let me help you." Cristiano put his hands on either side of Rosa's waistbands and began rolling the pants up until the no longer sagged on the ground. Rolling the pants also tightened the pants around Rosa's waist to where she could move without them falling off.
"Grazie brother." Rosa said palming her forehead, detesting the fact that her younger brother was helping her dress.
Once all twelve men (including Rosa) had finished dressing and rearming themselves with the Venetian Guard's gear they lined up in four rows, mimicking the formation the guard usually travels in.
"Impressive." Rosa muttered to her brother. "This may actually work."
"Oh I am not finished yet." Cristiano placed two fingers in his mouth and whistled rhythmically. From the rooftops descended a figure in a white robe that was stained with crimson liquid.
"Ezio! Are you hurt?" Rosa rushed to the figure. She pulled the hood from the figure and gasped. "Che cosa? Ugo? What are you doing wearing Ezio's robes?"
"Well you didn't think they were just going to open the gates for us did you?" Ugo replied quickly.
"And the blood?" Rosa questioned.
"Its just dye from Leonardo, relax it is just in case the guards are too paranoid to let a fully healthy assassin into the palazzo. I doubt they will be sober enough to even care what I am capable of. Now, we must get moving we are wasting time."
Ugo placed his hood back on and stepped into the middle of the thieves' formation, where he lowered himself to his knees. The two thieves on either side of him took an arm drug him loosely as they began their march to the palazzo. Cristiano took the lead, while Rosa fell to the back end of the formation. As the thieves moved across the large courtyard separating the palazzo from the alleyways they were easily spotted by Ezio who was still atop the Campanile, already strapped into his flying device. Once he saw them, he began readying himself for takeoff. He pushed the machine as far back as he could from his takeoff ledge. Taking several deep breaths, Ezio began a count down. "3…2…1!" Ezio pushed off his back feet, making sure to get as much force as possible in the three steps he had room to take before he had to jump. After clearing the ledge Ezio held on tight, praying that his "wings" would catch a draft of air, otherwise the street would be painted with his blood. The wings took air, seamlessly gliding towards the palazzo. The steady sound of wind tunneling past him filled his ears. Ezio breathed a sigh of relief, his friend's invention had actually worked, and he was indeed flying. From below, Rosa caught a glimpse of Ezio and his craft as it crossed the path of the full moon, making him look like a winged demon from the street perspective. He disappeared into the night sky after crossing the moon, almost to the rooftop of the Palazzo.
Ezio was almost in range of the Palazzos rooftop when he came to a startling realization. He learned how to fly the craft, but not how to land it. Thinking quickly, Ezio maneuvered the craft on a course straight towards the canal. There was a narrow strip of rooftop without guards that he could land on after he ditched the craft into the Canal. Easier said than done. If he overshoots it, he would have a long swim to the Palazzo, and undercutting it would mean an untimely encounter with one of the palazzo's steep walls.
As the canal got closer and closer, Ezio took a deep breath and disengaged himself from the craft. He tensed his body in preparation for what he knew would be a hard landing. The good news was, his machine had taken a direct line into the canal, the noise of the splashdown, and his hard landing was covered by a timely firework. The bad news was he was now rolling down the rooftop unable to get a grip on any of the shingles, as his body was crushing them before he could get a hold of a solid one. Before he knew it, he ran out of rooftop to roll on and was sent over the side of the palazzo. Instinctively, he caught the edge of the rooftop with his right arm while the rest of his body dangled over the canal. Ezio struggled a bit to regain his grip with both hands on the ledge, as pieces of the shingles were still rolling down hitting him atop the head before they fell into the canal. He eventually did regain his composure and pull himself back to the rooftop. Ezio made his way over to take a look at the Palazzo's courtyard.
Not even a minute into peering over Ezio heard the one word that could ruin everything for him.
"Assassino!" Someone from below shouted. Ezio's heart began to race. His eyes frantically searched for a place to hide. There was an open window on below the ledge where he had almost fallen over. He darted back to that side and worked his way down to the window. There was no candle lit in the room luckily so he snuck in undetected. He made his way to a window across the room that had a view directly into the courtyard where again he heard "assassino!" being shouted. Ezio felt a rush of relief as he began to put it all together. He hadn't been compromised. It was Cristiano and his men at the main gate, demanding that they open up.
"Open up comrade! My men and I have injured an assassin and per our orders must hand him in to il Doge." Cristiano shouted through the metal gates.
"An assassin? Really?" The guard who stood at the gate spoke in awe. He too clearly had taken part in the festivities. His breath was wreaked of cheap wine. Without and sort of hesitation he pulled the chain to lift the gates for Cristiano and his men to enter. The gate man came closer to investigate the assassin, still in awe that they had actually caught one. He tried to make his way into the formation to poke and prod the assassin, but was shoved to the ground by Cristiano.
"Back off drunken ragazzo." Cristiano hissed authoritatively. The young man was put off and stormed back to his post. Cristiano and his men stood in the center of the courtyard in front of a large bay window to which Cristano called out.
"Doge! I have captured one of the assassins. He is wounded but not dead. My men and I have come to collect our bounty." A candle light appeared and grew closer to the window. A figure emerged to the balcony to greet Cristiano. It was in fact Emilio Barabagio. Upon seeing his target, Ezio began making his way toward him. He hurried back to the rooftops where he skirted around the edges to a position above where he had last seen the Doge. Emilio was still on the balcony. He placed his hands on the balcony's railing as he began to project his voice.
"If this is indeed the notorious assassin, show yourself!" He shouted at the robed figure who was still pretending to be wounded. All of the thieves smirked to themselves at the Doge's stupidity. Their smirks evolved into full smiles as they saw dark figure emerge on the roof directly above where the Doge was standing.
"Assassino! Assassino!" The gatekeeper began yelling and pointing in Ezio's direction. He was originally disregarded because the Doge thought he was drunkenly pointing at the figure in the middle of the formation. Unfortunately for the guard, Rosa quicky grew tired of his loud remarks. As soon as he started barreling towards the formation of men, Rosa snapped around, unsheathed her stiletto and thrust it into the gatekeeper's abdomen. He was stopped in his tracks, but in that same instant the Doge realized these people weren't who they claimed to be. As the Doge whipped around to look up at what the gatekeeper was pointing at, the last thing he saw was a flurry of Ezio's robes descending unto him. He was sent crashing to the floor where Ezio landed on top of him, hidden blade already drawn and driving straight into the his chest. As the blade dug in, the Doge's body tensed, blood began trickling from his lip, as well as seeping through his robes where he had been stabbed. Ezio had the power to finish him right there, but first he had some questions for the Doge.
"Where is the apple?" Ezio asked menacingly still on top of him. The Doge seemed to be choking on his own blood, but still chose not to answer. Ezio dug the blade in a little deeper. "Where!" The doge grimaced in even more pain.
"V-V-" The Doge struggled to get out his last words. "Vesspucci's"
His head fell over limply to the side as he exhaled on last time.
"Requiescat in Pace" Ezio said as he stood. The crowd of thieves below cheered as the saw Ezio rise. Their elation lasted for a second until they heard a voice bellow from the corridors around them. "Attack!"
Men in red armor emerged from the building the surrounding corridors. Cristiano quickly identified them as Borgia soldiers by the lion on their crests. The thieves quickly drew their weapons, Ugo threw off his robes, revealing that he had snuck in a crossbow as well as enough arrows to down a small army. As he began firing, the thieves began engaging with the Borgia soldiers. Ezio, quickly seeing that the number of Borgias attacking outnumbered their small group of thirteen, jumped down to aid in the fight. He cut down men with ease, taking on two or three men at a time. What the Borgia soldiers lacked in skill, they made up for in numbers. Ezio cut his way across the courtyard to where Rosa was fighting. She had ditched her helmet because it was difficult for her to battle with it on. Unfortunately that made her a target for the Borgia soldiers. Four men had encircled her. They were taunting and shouting obscenities to which she fired back "the only cagna here is you!"
The soldiers laughed at her insults and began converging on her. The first began toying with her, lightly swinging his sword in her direction as she took a defensive stance. The soldier brought his sword down half-heartedly again, this time within striking distance of Rosa. She quickly seized the opportunity by parrying his blade to the side and then kicking him directly in the groin. The soldier fell to his knees grasping himself. Rosa wasted no time and pierced his chest with her stiletto. The other three guards stopped laughing as their comrade fell to his side. Enraged, they began approaching her as a group. An arrow came whizzing in from across the courtyard, directly into on of the soldier's skulls. As he fell, Ezio appeared from behind, each of his hidden blades sinking into a soldier's back.
"Pardon me Madonna but you looked as if you needed some assistance" Ezio mocked, offering his hand in aid. Rosa scoffed and pushed his hand away playfully.
"Our work is not yet finished assassino, what of the apple?" She inquired.
"All the Doge said was Vespucci."
"Well, there is something we didn't know." Rosa said sarcastically. "They have made their residence here for the past few days, why don't you have a look around inside, I'm sure we can handle the mess out here."
"Va bene, I will return shortly. In the mean time bella, try not to get yourself killed?" Ezio pleaded. Rosa scoffed again.
"I can take care of myself assassino, the apple is the only thing you need worry about for now. Ezio rolled his eyes.
"Of course you can." He leaned down and lightly pecked her lips before taking off behind one of the doors that led to the interior of the Seta.
Ezio had no idea where he was going, Antonio's model had only shown the exterior of the Seta, so inside he was a sitting duck. This in mind, Ezio walked around stealthily, listening intently for any sound that could lead him to the apple. At the end of the hallway, there was a faint light. Upon closer inspection it led to a spiral stairwell that only led downward. The farther down Ezio went, the brighter and brighter it became until he reached the bottom floor.
It was a large room, which seemed to be the size of the entire courtyard above, the only difference being that it was underground. The empty space was filled with rows and rows of bookshelves and tables at which scholars could spend hours attending to. Magnificent paintings and maps lined the walls. Brass chandeliers hung from every inch of the ceiling, leaving no corner touched by darkness. The smell of hot wax and old books filled the room, and amidst all this was silence. Ezio still crept around, fearing he may not be the only person in this grand room.
As he made his way through the room, about halfway in stood a small pillar, with three golden prongs projecting from the center. Ezio looked closely, deducing that this wasn't a piece of art, rather it was a holder for something, most likely being the apple. On the adjacent table laid diagrams and sketches of the apple, written in a language Ezio could not identify. He rolled up the documents and stashed them away in his robes. Leonardo would know what to do with them. Also on the table next to the candles sat a tea cup. Ezio stuck his pinky into the cup and then into his mouth. The liquid was still almost scorching hot. It tasted just like the mint tea his mother would drink every morning that was exclusive to Firenze. Who ever had been sitting here hadn't left but a few minutes before Ezio arrived.
Feeling a new sense of urgency, Ezio began in a sprint across the great room. When he reached the opposite wall he was greeted by another spiral staircase that took him all the way to the top. Just as he reached the top he came to a screeching halt as he heard voices coming from right above him. Ezio slipped back into a crouched position where he cautiously approached the voices. To his relief, at the top of the stair case was a wall shielding him from view. He hurried up and put his back against the wall and peered around the corner at the two voices.
An excessively muscular man, at least a foot taller than Ezio was speaking down to an older more sophisticated figure. "My liege, we must make haste, the assassin will be here any minute." His voice was deep and a bit intimidating to Ezio, but what he was really worried about was the axe strapped to the large man's waist.
"Have you the apple?" The man said, his voice older and more frail. Ezio quickly recognized the him. The voiced belonged to a man who had on many occasion banished Ezio from his house, Alberto Vespucci.
"Yes my Lord." The large man reached under his tunic and pulled out a silk purple bag, the shape of a sphere was glowing from within. Alberto untied the gold cords to verify that it was indeed the treasured artifact. When everything checked out, he carefully placed the apple back in the bag and tied it to his belt.
"And the boat?" Alberto asked.
"The rest of the family is on board, waiting for you." Alberto turned to leave, but was stopped by the large man again. "There is one more thing, Emilio is dead my Lord. He was struck down by the assassin." The news created considerable panic in Alberto's voice.
"That is most unfortunate. I want you to find and kill the assassin. Bring his blade to me and you will receive a considerable reward."
"At once sir." Alberto again took off in the other direction, assumingly towards the docks that sat on the far side of the Seta. Ezio had not time to back track and find a new way out to the docks before it was too late so he unfortunately was going to have to confront the large man.
Ezio could hear the man's footsteps stomping closer and closer. Knowing that he had the element of surprise on his side Ezio sat and waited behind the wall for the man to walk into his waiting arms. He could only hope that Alberto was out of earshot when he pounced because a man this big would not go down quietly. Ezio crouched down and slowly released the mechanisms on both his hidden blades. The man appeared and Ezio charged at him, blades first. The man reacted well to Ezio, as if he was expecting an attack. He grabbed Ezio's wrists and pinned him to the adjacent wall.
"Is that the best you can do assassino?" The man smirked and taunted. Angry, Ezio reverted to one of Rosa's tricks Ezio brought his boot up and kicked the man directly in between the legs. The man didn't quite fall to his knees but he lost his balance and began falling down the spiral staircase. Unfortunately for Ezio, the man hadn't let go of his wrists. The both went crashing down the stairs rolling over one another until they were back in the grand library room.
Both men were slow to get up, as Ezio stood he immediately felt a sharp pain in his ribcage. The other man rose and went straight for his axe. Ezio had Altair's sword, but compared to the axe, his sword was a toy. Ezio knew with one blow his sword could be shattered so his best bet was to try and dodge the axe and wait for an opening. The man raised his axe over his head and tried to bring it crashing down on Ezio's head. Thankfully, Ezio rolled out of the way just in time, but not without grimacing at the pain in his ribs. The man raised his axe again, swung and missed, crashing his axe into a sculpture. With every missed swing, he grew more and more frustrated, swinging more erratically than the last time. Ezio could tell his swings were getting more and more sloppy because he was getting tired. After a few more swings Ezio positioned himself against a bookshelf and waited for the man to take the bait. He did, swinging his axe mightily into a bookcase while Ezio dove aside. The axe not only got stuck in the side of the bookshelf, but the force of the blow knocked the shelf over, and with that, the axe was pulled out of the man's hands. As the man struggled to pull his axe free Ezio pounced on the man's back and sunk each of his knives into the mans shoulder blades. The man stood up in pain, trying desperately to shake Ezio off his back. Seeing that his hidden blades wouldn't kill him, Ezio withdrew his right hand blade and retrieved Altair's sword from it's sheath. The man still flailed wildly, but Ezio remained calm and brought Altair's sword to his neck.
"Requiescat in pace." Ezio slid the sword across the length of the man's neck. A waterfall of blood spewed along the trail of the blade. Ezio withdrew from the man, who fell to his knees gurgling blood in his last moments of life.
Exhausted from the fight Ezio wanted to plop down and take a breather but he reminded himself that if he lost the apple now, he might not find it again so it began sprinting back up the spiral staircase that led to the docks. Through the long corridor and up another few steps, Ezio ran clenching his side. He burst through the door. The cool Venetian breeze felt good on his face. There was no time to stop and enjoy the scenery, Ezio looked frantically left and right for the ship. As he rounded the corner along the docks, Ezio caught sight of a merchant ship cutting it's final ties with the dock. Ezio rushed over trying to catch it before it gained enough speed to take off into open waters. The boat already disengaged from the dock but the rope that held it there still trailed the boat. Ezio jumped into the water and grasped the rope. He used it to reel himself closer to the back of the boat where he used ledges and window sills to claw his way up to the deck.
All his splashing and climbing didn't go unnoticed though. When Ezio reached the deck a gang of guards all in red Borgia uniforms met him. They pulled him over the railing and onto the deck. Ezio landed with a thud, exhausted from the fight and swim up there. The guards pulled him to his feet and held him in place.
Alberto Vespucci appeared, laughing cynically as he gazed upon the helpless assassin.
"So you are the great assassin who killed il doge?" Ezio's head was bowed and his hood shielded his identity from Alberto. "Show yourself assassin!" One of the guards who held Ezio pulled back his hood. Alberto erupted into a dry laughter.
"You have to be kidding me! Ezio? Is that you? Look what has become of Giovanni's little playboy. My, I didn't think you had it in you son!" Ezio grit his teeth at Alberto's remarks. He was going to enjoy slicing his throat by the end of tonight.
"You know, Ezio, I knew your father was innocent. Frankly, I wish I was the one who got to pull that lever, dropping him and your puny brothers to their deaths. I laughed as they fell-" Ezio lurched forward, having heard enough of his ramblings. The guards who held him quickly reprimanded him, stepping on the back of his knees, collapsing him and bringing him to his knees.
"Not so fast assassin, you wouldn't want any more blood on your hands would you?" Alberto motioned off in the other direction. Two more guards appeared restraining a soldier in Venetian armor. As the soldier was brought into the moonlight, Ezio's worst fears were realized. The soldier whose mouth and hands were bound behind their back was Rosa.
Ezio's heart sank as he watched Rosa try twisting and jerking away from her captors. They handed her over to Alberto who was grinning sadistically.
"Oh she's a feisty one. I like that." Alberto barred his arm over her neck and buried his face in her hair. He took a long whiff in. "I think I'll have her bathe me tonight, maybe even more if she's lucky." Rosa cut her eyes at him, disgusted by the thought of having to touch his body. Ezio felt his blood start to boil. His eyes then went to the bag tied to Alberto's waist. He noticed and with his unused hand he pulled the apple from its bag. "Why, is this what you want?" Alberto taunted confidently knowing he had at least ten soldiers between himself and Ezio. Rosa's eyes gleamed in the light of the apple. Her eyes kept shifting from the floor to the apple repeatedly. Ezio was confused for a moment, and then he caught on.
Alberto held the apple out again within inches of Ezio. Rosa then did the unthinkable. She abruptly jumped and kicked the apple out of Alberto's hand, sending it overboard into the sea. Alberto threw her to the ground and made an attempt to catch it before it went overboard. Amidst the chaos Ezio broke his captor's grip and jumped over the port side of the boat after the apple.
Ezio went crashing into the water. Under the water he could only make out a blurry glowing object that was rapidly getting smaller and smaller. He swam quickly after it. Once he retrieved it Ezio surfaced, gasping for air. Disoriented, Ezio looked around frantically for the ship. When he spotted it, the ship was about 100 meters away. In his condition it was impossible for him to catch up to the ship by now.
Ezio swam back to the dock. When he reached it, he pulled himself up out of the water and just laid there, exhausted. He rolled over onto his back still breathing heavily. His ribs pained him every time he took a breath. Ezio grimaced as he went into his robes to pull out the apple. As he inspected it, he noticed there was an odd sticky red substance covering the apple. Ezio looked quizzically at the apple, then down at his once white robes. They were now stained with the same liquid. He brought his free hand down to where the pain was most intense. With his fingertips he could feel the warm liquid oozing from his body. He traced his skin until he reached the depression where the liquid was coming from. One of the guards must have gotten a blade on him when he was making a run off the ship.
In that moment he came to a grave realization. Yes, he killed the Doge, and yes he retrieved the apple, but he had paid a heavy price. Rosa had been lost to Alberto Vespucci. She was on a ship to God knows where, while Ezio laid on the dock, injured, and unable to do anything about it. Perhaps the thing that scared Ezio the most was that he had no idea if Rosa was still alive or not or what Alberto had intended on doing to her. She had sacrificed her own safety to give Ezio a chance at getting the apple. His thoughts became more and more distorted as he tried to get up. Not even making it back to his knees, Ezio ended up collapsing back onto the dock, exhausted, losing the fight, and letting the darkness overtake his body.
Che cosa- what the
Va bene- okay
Before you light your torches and pitchforks, let me apologize for taking so long to put this chapter up. I have been unbelievably busy with school and soccer and applying to college that I have not had any time to actually sit down and work on this story. But the good news is, over the course of time I have dreamt up many many ideas for this story, and I am taking it in a whole new direction. It wont be ending any time soon. Again I apologize for the timing, but my life has been hectic these last group of months. Please continue reading and staying with me, I will be doing my damn best to get these ideas out of my head and onto this story! Thank you all so much for sticking with me! Remember I really love your feedback so leave any love hate or mistakes in the comments or feel free ton inbox me. Thank you again from the bottom of my heart.