Disclaimer: I am not Mary Hoffman; I don't own Lucia, Guido, Talia or any of the Stravaganza books.


March 1580, Fortezza

Guido Parola

By the time the first rays of the morning sun managed to trickle their way into Guido's bedroom, Guido was already up. He had not been sleeping well last night. Noticing the sun, Guido blew out the candle in which flame he had been reading. A smile played on his lips as he went to open up the window. He still had a few hours until his first class, but the rest of the city was waking up. From his window Guido spotted merchants eagerly shouting out the superiority of their goods to the passersbys. A woman stopped by one of market stands and soon the game of haggling began. Guido suddenly felt an urge to get out to the street. He stepped back and shut the window. Silently he made his way out of his suite and downstairs. Signora Conti's snores were very audible on this floor and Guido stifled a laugh as he snuck out the door.

Outside, the city was waking up. Kids ran past Guido and he spotted a drunkard lying in a nearby alley.

"Hey there, Parola", shouted the merchant across the street. "Ain't yew gon'a buy nothin' from me today, eh?" Guido instantly recognised the odd voice and turned towards the stand.

"Alice! I should have known you'd be here", Guido said smiling. He had bought things from her stand on occasion, but usually they just talked. She was a few years than him and her life story was a fascinating one. Originally from Anglia, Alice had left home at age fifteen to find an adventure. Since, she had travelled across most of Europe with a merchant vessel, crushing those who looked down on her because of her gender. Eventually she had gotten sick of the sea and decided to stay in Talia. An odd chain of occurrences had brought her to Fortezza and now she was making her living as a vendor.

"Still not able ter pronounce me name, I see", Alice said with a smirk. She had a weird way of speaking Talian, but nonetheless took every chance to tease Guido about his pronounciation.

"Words cannot convey how sincerely sorry I am, signora, please accept my humblest apologies", Guido said in a mock hurt tone and laughed. Alice laughed along and they stood there for a while until a customer showed up. Guido waited patiently until the woman left before addressing Alice again.

"How's business going along?"

"Nah, just fine. It 'elps ter 'ave a good-lookin' nobleman standin' 'ere, handsome", Alice said in an exaggerated flirtatious voice and they both laughed again. Alice was way into older men with darker hair and beards and Guido could not think of her as anything other than a friend. He had introduced her to Cristiano, which had been a mistake. Cristiano's impression of the outspoken Anglian merchant had not been as good as Guido's. The fight that had erupted afterwards left them not speaking to each other for a few days. They found their friendship again, but they had an unspoken agreement to not bring up Alice again.

"What are yew up ter today, eh, Parola?" Alice asked when they had recovered from laughter.

Guido shrugged. "I have one class, rhetoric, in a few hours. Some homework, of course, and then Cristiano said something about a part later." Alice scowled when Guido mentioned Cristiano and he cursed himself. Alice could not stand Cristiano anymore than he could stand her. Guido decided to let it slip and quickly changed subject.

"Hey, didn't you tell me you stayed in Cittanuova once? Dante Borriello in my economy class is from there."

Alice immediately lightened up and began telling a story so incredible she had to have made up parts of it.

Lucia di Chimici

I need a distraction had Lucia said. But that was last week. Today was today and now she was not as sure whether her decision to enrol at University of Fortezza was very wise. Lucia took a deep breath to try to calm down. It was stupid to get upset about something as silly as a class. After all, she was only planning on taking one class, not commit herself to full time studies.

"Maid!" Lucia called out. Within seconds a maid showed up. She instantly began dressing Lucia, who still had been in her nightgown. Lucia let her thoughts wander while the maid was fussing around her with small shout outs about how "signorita principessa should not rise without proper clothes" and "signorita principessa will now catch a cold". She could recognise the maid, Paoletta, by this action alone. She was one of the oldest maids and had been with the family for a long while. It would take a lot more than frankly expressed concern to get her thrown out. Besides, Lucia wanted someone who fussed without fear of losing her job. She had actually sent away a few maids during her sorrow period.

The most ornate dresses could take up to an hour to put on correctly, but Lucia had settled on a simpler dress today. Even so, it was by no means simple and Lucia retained with ease her aristocratic presence.

"Principessa, you look beautiful!" said Paoletta and took a step back. The maid had done Lucia's hair in a sophisticated, yet moderately free style. Lucia admired her own reflection for a few seconds before she turned around. Paoletta would accompany her as a chaperone today.

Her parents had originally not been in favour of Lucia's idea about taking a class. Women did not go to University; their duties existed within other areas. They had only given in because they knew as well as she did that she needed a distraction. She had not personally been involved in the negotiations about her enrolment, but she suspected it included a limit of one class and lots of money.

"Is the carriage ready?" Lucia inquired with a well hidden nervousness. A nearby servant answered her question with a bow and "yes, principessa". Lucia nodded graciously and made her way towards the door, tailed by Paoletta.

About an hour later, Lucia stood outside the lecture hall. People rushed by as usual, no one acknowledged the young princess standing outside the university building. Without a word Lucia determinedly opened the door and walked into the quiet hall. The silence filled the massive room and every single step Lucia took seemed to echo through it.

"It appears we are a little bit early, principessa", Paoletta said in a voice that boomed over the lecture hall. Lucia flinched instinctively at the sound but the maid continued indifferently. "Shall we take seats, principessa?" Lucia nodded, still unwilling to speak out in the previously silent room.

It did not take very long before people started to well in through the doors. Surprisingly few seemed to take much notice of her and Paoletta and Lucia could not help bat an eyelid. She turned around, facing the podium. This was what she wanted. No one bothered her, so she should not bother them.

Now she would focus on the class. This was, after all, her very first rhetoric class.

Guido Parola

Guido walked hurriedly down the street towards the lecture hall. He was almost running late, again. Yet again Cristiano was the one to blame. Upon returning home he had found Cristiano awake and eagerly waiting for him. They had spent the day all over the city. Guido had already forgotten most of the names of the people being introduced to him during the forenoon and he was not sure if he would even find his way back to the tavern were they had had lunch. Fortezza was such a big city. Guido was slowly learning how to find his way around it and he was glad he had Cristiano as a guide. He was a good guide, yet a bit unreliable. Cristiano had excused himself and disappeared after lunch, just in time for Guido to realise that his class started in half an hour. Now he was rushing towards the doors, hoping he would not be late.

The lecturer was just about to start when Guido sprinted into the hall. He threw himself down at the closest untaken seat and pulled out a notebook and pencil. But suddenly the voice of the teacher seemed to fade. A few rows ahead of him a familiar red hair flow was visible. It could not be, yet... Guido instinctively knew it was her. Lucia di Chimici. But what was she doing here? Based on the appearance she was taking the class. But she could not. She came from an important family, but she was still a woman. She could not take classes. She could not. Yet, there she was. There was no doubt that it was her.


A/N: FINALLY is the March chapter of Fortezza up! I can't begin to explain how sorry I am about it taking so long. Truth be told, I had completely forgotten about this story... But after a nice little reminder that I had in fact written a story named Fortezza, One Year ;) I put my ass down and wrote an outline for the whole story.

I know nothing happens... But hold out! I have this evil mastermind plan for Guido and Lucia that will make you tear out your little hearts and throw them on the ground *hehe* ...Okay, maybe not but I'll do my best!

Review! :D