Assassin's Creed: Renaissance Page 3

‘Now,’ he said. ‘This really will hurt, a little.’

Once the stitches were in and the wound bandaged so that Ezio looked like a turbaned Turk, the doctor smiled encouragement. ‘That’ll be three fiorini, for now. I’ll come to your palazzo in a few days and remove the stitches. That’ll be another three fiorini to pay then. You’ll have a terrible headache, but it’ll pass. Just try to rest – if it’s in your nature! And don’t worry: the wound looks worse than it is, and there’s even a bonus: there shouldn’t be much of a scar, so you won’t be disappointing the ladies too greatly in future!’

Once they were back in the street, Federico put his arm round his younger brother. He pulled out a flask and offered it to Ezio. ‘Don’t worry,’ he said, noticing the expression on Ezio’s face. ‘It’s our father’s best grappa. Better than mother’s milk for a man in your condition.’

They both drank, feeling the fiery liquid warm them. ‘Quite a night,’ said Federico.

‘Indeed. I only wish they were all as much fun as -‘ but Ezio interrupted himself as he saw that his brother was beginning to grin from ear to ear. ‘Oh, wait!’ he corrected himself, laughing: ‘They are!’

‘Even so, I think a little food and drink wouldn’t be a bad thing to set you up before we go home,’ said Federico. ‘It’s late, I know, but there’s a taverna nearby where they don’t close until breakfast time and -‘

‘- you and the oste are amici intimi?’

‘How did you guess?’

An hour or so later, after a meal of ribollita and bistecca washed down with a bottle of Brunello, Ezio felt as if he’d never been wounded at all. He was young and fit, and felt that all his lost energy had flowed back into him. The adrenaline of the victory over the Pazzi mob certainly contributed to the swiftness of his recovery.

‘Time to go home, little brother,’ said Federico. ‘Father’s sure to be wondering where we are, and you’re the one he looks to to help him with the bank. Luckily for me, I’ve no head for figures, which is why I suppose he can’t wait to get me into politics!’

‘Politics or the circus – the way you carry on.’

‘What’s the difference?’

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Ezio knew that Federico bore him no ill will over the fact that their father confided more of the family business in him than in his elder brother. Federico would die of boredom if confronted by a life in banking. The problem was, Ezio had a feeling that he might be the same. But for the moment, the day when he donned the black velvet suit and the gold chain of a Florentine banker was still some way off, and he was determined to enjoy his days of freedom and irresponsibility to the full. Little did he realize just how short-lived those days would be.

‘We’d better hurry, too,’ Federico was saying, ‘if we want to avoid a bollocking.’

‘He may be worried.’

‘No – he knows we can take care of ourselves.’ Federico was looking at Ezio speculatively. ‘But we had better get a move on.’ He paused. ‘You don’t feel up to a little wager at all, do you? A race perhaps?’

‘Where to?’

‘Let’s say,’ Federico looked across the moonlit city towards a tower not far away. ‘The roof of Santa Trinità. If it’s not going to take too much out of you – and it’s not far from home. But there’s just one thing more.’


‘We’re not racing along the streets, but across the rooftops.’

Ezio took a deep breath. ‘OK. Try me,’ he said.

‘All right, little tartaruga – go!’

Without another word, Federico was off, scaling a nearby roughcast wall as easily as a lizard would. He paused at the top, seeming almost to teeter among the rounded red tiles, laughed, and was off again. By the time Ezio had reached the rooftops, his brother was twenty yards ahead. He set off in pursuit, his pain forgotten in the adrenaline-fuelled excitement of the chase. Then he saw Federico take an almighty leap across a pitch-black void, to land lightly on the flat roof of a grey palazzo slightly below the level of the one he had jumped from. He ran a little way further, and waited. Ezio felt a glimmer of fear as the chasm of the street eight storeys below loomed before him, but he knew that he would die rather than hesitate in front of his brother, and so, summoning up his courage, he took a massive leap of faith, seeing, as he soared across, the hard granite cobbles in the moonlight far beneath his feet as they flailed the air. For a split second he wondered if he’d judged it right, as the hard grey wall of the palazzo seemed to rise up to meet him, but then, somehow, it sank below him and he was on the new roof, sprawling slightly it was true, but still on his feet, and elated, though breathing hard.

‘Baby brother still has much to learn,’ taunted Federico, setting off again, a darting shadow among the chimney-stacks under the scattering of clouds. Ezio hurled himself forward, lost in the wildness of the moment. Other abysses yawned beneath him, some defining mere alleyways, others broad thoroughfares. Federico was nowhere to be seen. Suddenly the tower of Santa Trinità rose before him, rising from the red sweep of the church’s gently sloping roof. But as he approached he remembered that the church stood in the centre of a square, and that the distance between its roof and those of the surrounding buildings was far greater than any he had yet leapt. He dared not hesitate or lose speed now – his only hope was that the church roof was lower than the one he would have to jump from. If he could throw himself forward with enough force, and truly launch himself into the air, gravity would do the rest. For one or two seconds he would fly like a bird. He forced any thought of the consequences of failure out of his mind.

The edge of the roof he was on approached fast, and then – nothing. He soared, listening to the air whistle in his ears, bringing tears into his eyes. The church roof seemed an infinite distance away – he would never reach it, he would never laugh or fight or hold a woman in his arms again. He couldn’t breathe. He shut his eyes, and then…

His body bent double, he was steadying himself with his hands and feet, but they were supported again – he had made it, within inches of the edge, but he had made it on to the church roof!

But where was Federico? He clambered up to the base of the tower and turned to look back the way he had come, just in time to see his brother flying through the air himself. Federico landed firmly, but his weight sent one or two of the red clay tiles slithering out of place and he almost lost his footing as the tiles slid down the roof and off the edge, shattering a few seconds later on the hard cobbles far below. But Federico had found his balance again, and he stood up, panting for sure, but with a broad, proud smile on his face.

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