Notice - phrases written in Italian:
Buongiorno! - Good day/Hello!
Ma - but
Zia - aunt
Tieni! - Here!
Grazie! - Thank you!
Puttana - bitch/whore
Disgustosa - disgusting
Adesso basta. - Enough now/Enough already.
Il tuo tempo é arriva. - Your time has come.
Requiescat in Pace - Rest in Peace
Cazzo! - Fuck!/Damn!
Benvenuta a mia modesta casa. - Welcome to my humble home.
Onoratissima. - I'm honored.
Ragazza - girl
4. The Proof
~ Rome, 1492 ~
Dawn approached the empty streets of Rome, as the birds flew to announce the mark of a new day. Everything was calm, tranquil, not a noise could be heard.
Except for one restless, ghostly-pale maiden, who roamed the city on horseback, with her long hair dallied on the light breeze, now released of the ribbon's hard grip, spurting around freely.
Dafne enjoyed the wind as it pierced her face; it awoke her, kept her sane, as she traveled to her aunt's mansion. She could feel dread rise in her abdomen, for she knew Agostina would be in an ireful mood. The reason for it was Dafne herself. She hadn't come home the whole night, and Agostina hated broken promises, hence her phrase 'mark my words'.
But as Dafne had thought it over for a thousand times, it didn't matter; she was leaving the old hag after all. She couldn't care less about her opinion on it either. Her stay in Rome had been unpleasant to begin with, all thanks to the troublesome actress.
Dafne longed for an ending to that. The very thought of the woman sickened her to no extent.
Trembling as she jumped off of the horse and chased it away, Dafne spotted Agostina's house keeper. He yawned slightly, because he had been watching over the house during night, but he quickly stretched up the moment he noticed Dafne approach him.
"Buongiorno, Signorina! Signora Agostina-"
"I do not care," Dafne interrupted him bitterly, making him nod in apology, "I want you to fetch me a sword. The one zia keeps locked away in the shed."
The man winced upon hearing Dafne's order.
"M-Ma, Signorina, it is prohibited-"
"This instant, Giacomo," Dafne cut the keeper off once again, "Or I shall go retrieve it myself."
Without other solutions, the man had to obey. He disappeared into the house's backyard, and returned after a few moments with the blade in hand, it illuminated by the beautiful morning sun. He also brought her a sash.
"Tieni, Signorina," politely bowing down, Giacomo handed Dafne the blade, and she almost smuggled it out of his hands, eager to put it to good use after such a long time. She quickly put the sash around her stomach, sheathing the sword.
"Grazie. You are dismissed."
Without uttering anything further, Dafne left towards the house, feeling a slight headache because of the lack of sleep. She slowly sneaked inside, sighing in relief when no one appeared to be in sight. Careful not to step loudly, Dafne climbed upstairs and reached her room, seemingly unnoticed.
The moment she entered the room, she grimaced disgust; the very air was choking her, making her headache duller. Quickly grabbing her chest, Dafne almost ran out of there, thanking the heavens she had kept her things all patched away in it.
As she struggled to see over the wooden crate, Dafne made her way down the stairs, the blade lightly bumping against her thigh as she walked. A quiet gasp escaped her lips as she memorized the first time she held a blade; at first, it was awkward, unusual, she wasn't sure what was she to exactly do. But as she learnt to swing it, to turn it, to pierce with the speed of light - those were moments that last forever. When you find yourself in something, it brings you joy from beyond, even in the darkest times.
Dafne drew a small smile as the memory faded within her mind. She had reached the bottom of the stairs and went for the door, when suddenly-
A loud shriek stormed through the air as Dafne felt something quite hard hit her from the side. In shock, the Florentine fell to the ground with a loud puff, grasping her head in agony, as her vision blurred.
Her aunt violently rolled her onto her back, pure white fury reflecting in her narrowed eyes, as she was just starting. Dafne gulped.
"You dare disobey me and take that thing even though I prohibited it since you arrived?! You will suffer the full consequences of opposing me, you pathetic excuse for a woman!" as Agostina's exclaims echoed off the walls, she raised her hand, stoically slapping Dafne, thus creating a bleeding cut on her cheek with one of her many rings. Dafne dug her nails into the wooden floor, her orbs watery and breath shaking.
A few moments later, Agostina repeated the act, earning a huff of pain from Dafne, as she grinned sadistically down at her niece. She enjoyed grinding the girl, making her worthless body shiver in pain and awe. She wished to rip her heart out. The brat did not deserve life anyway.
As Agostina moved in for another blow, Dafne screamed. The woman waved her arm towards her, but Dafne was ready; she grabbed her aunt's hand, holding it firmly, as she struggled to keep the heavy woman still.
As she sat up, Dafne reached for her sword.
"Il tuo tempo é arriva."
Her voice emotionlessly cold and eyes misty, Dafne pulled the sword out of its casing, its tip aimed towards the aunt's chest. The woman gasped, as she moved uncontrollably in fear, observing the incoming blade.
"Requiescat in Pace."
Pierce. A shot through the woman's system. Life left her eyes as her face became dark, void. Her trapped arm that fought for freedom out of Dafne's grip a mere few seconds ago had become shallow and weakened completely. An unfulfilled scream lingered on her lips. Heart vanished into nothingness as she fell.
Dafne's eyes were open wide; she observed the red substance come out of Agostina's abdomen and drip down the sword and onto her own hand, crudely drying down on her skin.
Dafne winced; she let go off the blade, as if it burned her, and harshly pushed Agostina away. She looked at her palm; soaked in fresh blood. Its odor made way to her nostrils, sending jolts up and down her spine.
Dafne's jaw dropped.
"C-Cazzo..." she muttered under her breath, grasping her head with her clean hand, trying to sustain a horrifying cry. Her head lowered weakly, as she whimpered and sobbed, eyes shifting towards her other, reddened palm.
She couldn't bear it, the blood; she was not a murderer. This was a first time she had taken a life. For a higher purpose.
But that was it! The freedom, the goal, the dreams! It needed to be done. There was no other way.
Dafne tried to cope with the said thoughts; when had she become so obsessed? When had this purpose of which, frankly, she wasn't even sure what it was, become more important than fear and the life of another?
And then she saw it; the piercing, cerulean gaze, so close, yet so far. The same gaze that awaited her in the Castel Sant'Angelo. The one she had just caused death for.
Finally gaining the courage to stand up, Dafne flinched as she pulled the sword out of her aunt's lifeless body. Not even bothering to clean the blade, Dafne sheathed it back, picking up her fallen chest.
As she turned her back to Agostina and exited the godforsaken house, Dafne didn't look back; she liked to imagine that she had already forgotten her aunt had ever inhabited the world.
Dafne stilled her horse with one swift command, glaring at the soldier bellow.
"You do not have permission to-"
The Florentine pushed her hand into her bossom, pulling out a small scrap of paper that bore the Pope's seal. Highly intimidated, the guard stared at it for a second, before bowing down and letting Dafne pass without a word.
She charged over the bridge, her hair elegantly floating behind her, eyes tired but soul ready. Entering the courtyard and then stables of the Castel, she rode to a cart full of hay, letting her horse enjoy its delights as she got off, gazing around herself.
There was another entrance that lead further into the fortress, protected by two heavily armed Papal Guards. Dafne stared at them awkwardly, unsure of what to do now.
Luckily, two voices could be heard from the other side. One Dafne recognized. She stretched up her back, standing still in anticipation.
The two men laughed pleasantly as they walked through the entrance, though it was unbeknownst to them that they were approaching the steady Florentine.
"And so, I told him, 'if you die now, I will kill you!'" Cesare told the other man, who humbly snickered in response. Dafne smiled a bit as well, letting a few giggles escape her lips. And that seemed to alert the men of her presence.
"Ah, Signorina, benvenuta a mia modesta casa!" he spread his arms in greeting, and for a second, Dafne wished to slip into his embrace, but she fought it, remembering the horrifying deed from not long ago.
"Grazie, Signor Cesare. I am eternally grateful," she bowed deeply before him, earning an indulged smirk from the Borgia.
"Ah, meet Micheletto, my right-hand man," as the man was introduced, he nodded politely towards Dafne, his black silky hair dancing on the light breeze and dark orbs shining, "And also, my closest friend."
Dafne blinked in understanding, simply replying, "Onoratissima, Dafne Vespucci."
She shook hands with Micheletto, and Cesare observed them. He then leaned closer to his servant, whilst still fixating his eyes intently upon Dafne.
"This is the ragazza I had spoken to you of earlier," he murmured crisply, "You know what to do."
The very idea of someone speaking of her out of her presence amused Dafne to no extent. Micheletto nodded and walked up behind her, as she wondered what was to happen next.
Without a warning, Micheletto had thrown a rope around her neck, and squeezed, leaving just enough space for Dafne to breathe, though managing to make her struggle. The Florentine huffed in shock, belligerently placing her hands on the rope, attempting to pull it off. But Micheletto only tightened it the more she fought back.
"My servants, as you may know, require loyalty and obedience should they wish to enter my service. With that in mind, do say, how may we trust you?"
As Cesare's words made their way to Dafne's ears, she stopped her manic movement, the rope's grip immediately lessening, though still giving her trouble breathing. Her head fell as she darkly observed the ground for a few long moments.
No turning back.
Dafne grabbed her sword and pulled it out, pointing its tip straight at Cesare. The blade was still covered in blood, and the moment it was unsheathed, it began reeking of the said substance likewise.
"I had used this to put my aunt Agostina to rest. You will find her body lying in the living room of her house. She tried to stop me from leaving, she attacked me," Cesare observed the two scars on Dafne's cheeks, "But I had not allowed her. I've taken her life for the sake of your goal. Our goal. Is this enough?"
Dafne's and Cesare's gazes met; for a second, they stared deeply, as if they were examining each other's souls. Dafne could feel Micheletto's grip loosen, but he still held her firmly.
Cesare had finally nodded, as such signaling Micheletto to release the Florentine maiden. She fell to her knees, striving for air like an artist strives for a masterpiece.
Once her breath had finally evened, Dafne raised her head, only to see Cesare right in front of her, his arm spread.
"You are welcome into our Order," he murmured, a satisfied smile adorning his face. He did not feel sorry or guilty, nor grateful at that matter, his stare did not falter, he did not try to soothe her; in that moment, Dafne realized - the man before her was ruthless, sharp, immoral and ready for anything for the sake of the interest, to the point of fanaticism.
Simply, the perfect leader.
Grasping her sword, she accepted Cesare's helping hand; he easily pulled her up, as she sheathed her blade, covered in his shadow.
Some sweet, violent urge had begotten Dafne in that moment; something she couldn't explain, and yet it was there. Making her blood boil...