Assassin's Creed: Renaissance Page 28

‘What next?’ Ezio asked his uncle.

‘We need to locate the captain of the guard here. His name’s Roberto. He’ll know where Vieri is.’ Mario was showing more stress than usual. ‘This is taking too long. It’ll be better if we split up. Look, I know Roberto. At this time of night, he’ll either be drunk in his favourite taverna or he’ll be already sleeping it off in the citadel. You take the citadel. Take Orazio and a dozen good men with you.’ He looked at the sky, which was just beginning to lighten, and tasted the air, which already carried the coolness of a new day in it. ‘Meet me by the cathedral before cock-crow to report. And don’t forget – I leave you in command of this gang of hooligans!’ He smiled affectionately at his men, took his own force, and disappeared along a street that led uphill.

‘The citadel’s in the north-west of the town – sir,’ said Orazio. He grinned, as did the others. Ezio sensed both their obedience to Mario, and their misgivings at having been entrusted to the command of such an untried officer.

‘Then let’s go,’ Ezio replied firmly. ‘Follow me. At my signal.’

The citadel formed one side of the town’s main square, not far from the cathedral and near the top of the small hill on which the town was built. They reached it without difficulty, but before they entered it Ezio noticed a number of Pazzi guards posted at its entrance. Motioning his men to stay back, he approached them, keeping to the shadows and silent as a fox, until he was close enough to overhear the conversation which was going on between two of them. It was clear that they were unhappy with Vieri’s leadership, and the more vehement of the two was in full flow.

‘I tell you, Tebaldo,’ the former was saying, ‘I’m not happy with that young puppy Vieri. I don’t think he could aim his piss into a bucket, let alone defend a town against a determined force. As for Capitano Roberto, he drinks so much he’s like a bottle of Chianti dressed in a uniform!’

‘You talk too much, Zohane,’ cautioned Tebaldo. ‘Remember what happened to Bernardo when he dared to open his mouth.’

The other checked himself, and nodded soberly. ‘You are right… I heard Vieri had him blinded.’

‘Well, I’d like to keep my eyesight, thank you very much, so we should end this talk. We don’t know how many of our comrades feel like us, and Vieri has spies everywhere.’

Satisfied, Ezio made his way back to his own troop. An unhappy garrison is rarely an efficient one; but there was no guarantee that Vieri did not command a strong loyal core of Pazzi adherents. As for the rest of Vieri’s men, Ezio had learned for himself how strong a commander fear itself can be. But the task now was to gain access to the citadel. Ezio scanned the square. Apart from the small force of Pazzi guards, it was dark and empty.



‘Will you engage these men and finish them off? Quickly and silently. I’m going to try to get up on the roof and see whether they’ve got any more people posted in the courtyard.’

‘It’s what we came here to do, sir.’

Leaving Orazio and his soldiers to take on the guards, Ezio, checking that he still had sufficient throwing-knives in his bandolier, ran a little way into a side street adjacent to the citadel, climbed to a nearby roof, and from it leapt to the roof of the citadel, which was built round its own interior courtyard. He thanked God that Vieri had evidently neglected to post men in the high towers of the houses of the dominant local families, which punctuated the town, since from that vantage point they could have surveyed everything that was going on. But he also knew that gaining control of those towers would be the first objective of Mario’s main force. From the roof of the citadel, he could see that the courtyard was deserted, leapt down to the top of its colonnade, and from there dropped to the ground. It was an easy manoeuvre to open the gates, and to position his men, who had dragged the bodies of the defeated Pazzi patrol out of sight, in the shadows of the colonnade. To avoid suspicion, they had reclosed the citadel gates behind them.

The citadel seemed, to all intents and purposes, deserted. But soon afterwards there came the sound of voices from the square beyond, and another group of Vieri’s men appeared, opening the gates and entering the courtyard, supporting among them a thickset man, running to fat, who was clearly drunk.

‘Where’ve the gate guards buggered off to?’ the man wanted to know. ‘Don’t say Vieri’s countermanded me and sent them off on another one of his bloody patrols!’

‘Ser Roberto,’ one of the men supporting him pleaded. ‘Isn’t it time you got some rest?’

‘Whaddyew mean? Made it back here just fine, didn’t I? Anyway, night’s still young!’

The new arrivals managed to seat their chief on the edge of the fountain in the middle of the courtyard and gathered round, uncertain what to do next.

‘Anyone would think I’m not a good captain!’ said Roberto, self-pityingly.

‘Nonsense, sir!’ said the man closest to him.

‘Vieri thinks I’m not,’ said Roberto, ‘You should hear the way he talks to me!’ He paused, looking round and trying to focus before continuing in a maudlin tone: ‘It’s only a matter of time before I’m replaced – or worse!’ He stopped again, snuffling. ‘Where’s that bloody bottle? Give it here!’ He drank a deep draught, looked at the bottle to assure himself that it was empty, and flung it away. ‘It’s Mario’s fault! I couldn’t believe it when our spies reported that he’d taken his nephew in – rescued the little bugger from Vieri himself! Now Vieri can scarcely think straight for rage, and I have to face my old compagno!’ He looked around blearily. ‘Dear old Mario! We were brothers-in-arms once, did you know that? But he refused to come over to the Pazzi with me, even though it was better money, better quarters, better equipment – the lot! I wish he were here now. For two pins, I’d -‘

‘Excuse me,’ Ezio interrupted, stepping forward.

‘Wha- ?’ said Roberto. ‘Who’re you?’

‘Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Mario’s nephew.’

‘What?’ Roberto roared, struggling to his feet and grabbing unsuccessfully for his sword. ‘Arrest the little tyke!’ He leant close, so that Ezio could smell the sour wine on his breath. Onions, too. ‘You know what, Ezio,’ he smiled. ‘I should be grateful to you. Now that I’ve got you, there’s nothing Vieri wouldn’t give me. Maybe I’ll retire. A nice little villa on the coast, perhaps -‘

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