Florence, 1510

Florence was sprawled before him, twisting roads and alleys, busy markets, rushing people. Such busy people with such important things to do. Before the day was over, there would be one less person. The man perched precariously atop a stone gargoyle, a white hood pulled over his head. He watched the people buying and selling, the lovers wooing and fighting, yet the one he sought hadn't arrived.

For a moment, he worried that his information had been wrong. That perhaps his snitch had lied. That he was going to have to go out of his way to brutally murder the man for wasting his time. Just as he was starting to mentally inventory his weapons and set off to find his informant, the woman walked into the square. Lovely, elegant, Gemma Delphino strolled through the market square, followed by maids as she perused the sellers' wares. She was not his true concern, but her master, Ludovico Nazario, was. Her cowardly master who'd hidden himself away from his enemies.

It was wasted effort, trying to hide from them. Enemies of the Brotherhood were always found.

Light steps crossed across the stone roof quickly toward him. Weapons clinked and with hand on his sword, he turned and stood from his perch, ready for a fight. Then he immediately relaxed, recognizing the younger man.

"Adamo," he said by way of greeting and turned back to watch Gemma's progress. "Glad to see you back to work. Give your wife my congratulations on the baby."

Adamo joined him near the ledge, looking not at their target but the distant horizon. He looked tired but content, a smile playing over his features.

"What of me, Franco? Am I not to be congratulated as well?"

"I wasn't aware that you did anything worthwhile."

"I was told I would be working with Ezio himself," he said, blatantly changing the subject.

"Believe me, you're lucky not to be. He was not in the best of tempers when I left Rome."

"What happened?"

"You know Claudia?"


"Well, I cannot say for sure, but somewhere during his promises of death and ranting, there was something about Claudia and a naked breakfast with Antonio de Magianis and –"

"The Venetian Thief Master?"

"Yes, and there was talk of things I don't think are anatomically possible."

"Ah. Too bad. I liked Antonio," Adamo said, certain that Antonio was a dead man; it was merely a matter of time.

He remembered the one time he'd taken too long a look at Ezio Auditore's younger sister and found himself taking too close a look at the Master Assassin's hidden blade. Ezio didn't seem to care one speck that his sister was a grown woman; the concern only came when other men noticed. Undoubtedly, Ezio would go to the ends of the earth for the men and women who'd given him and the Brotherhood their loyalty. But for his familia, the man would rip any one of them apart without regret.

"Yes, he was a good man," Franco agreed. "I wonder if we'll make it back in time for the funeral. La Volpe was trying to talk sense to him so perhaps Antonio's death will be a clean one."

"I've heard a rumor about La Volpe."

"There are a million rumors surrounding that one," Franco shrugged, unimpressed.

Gemma finally moved to another stall, one farther up the square. The two assassins followed atop the roofs, watching for guards and quietly dispatching the ones they couldn't. Once settled among the towering spires, the conversation went on.

"But this rumor," Adamo continued, "is different. Maria - the Master's mother has been seen with La Volpe."

"How do you mean, seen with?" Franco asked, curious despite himself.

"They go into a room together, alone, and neither emerges for several hours."

"That doesn't mean anything. And it cannot be true. La Volpe would not be seen."

If some of the more imaginative rumors were to be believed, La Volpe could walk and see through walls. It was so preposterous that such a man would be seen carelessly coming and going from secret rendezvouses with his lover, if that indeed was what Maria was to him. Again doubtful, as Maria Auditore, while not unattractive, was an older woman, and La Volpe may have been an equally older man, he could likely involve himself with a young, beautiful woman easily. Also, one without a son who would remove one's head and keep it as a trophy on his mantle.


"Has Master Ezio heard of this?"

"Of course not. There are just some things the man does not need to know."

"Agreed. It would be interesting and beyond terrifying to see his reaction though."

"Hm. I would pay money to see that from a safe distance."

"You might get your wish."

The assassins' mission was promptly forgotten as they turned as one to meet the deadly glare of Ezio Auditore himself. Adamo had the sudden image of his wife and new baby, having to eke out an existence without him. Franco had to check the urge to take off across the rooftops. The knowledge that he'd done nothing wrong kept him in place; that and Ezio got pissed when he had to chase people down. The air around them was inexplicably filled with the promise of pain.

"Now, is there any other information that I do need to know?"

The two very wisely, very figuratively spilled their guts. Between them, there was not a single rumor or morsel of gossip that Ezio didn't know. Once they were done, he was left with perhaps more information on his assassins, the thieves, courtesans, and their various...quirks than he ever wanted to know.