Assassin's Creed: Renaissance Page 56

In the meantime, Rosa had continued to make a gradual and ever-impatient recovery. She was up and about, but she depended on a cane to get around, and her damaged leg was still swathed in bandages. Ezio, despite himself, and constantly making mental apologies to Cristina Calfucci, spent as much of his time as he could in her company.

‘Salute, Rosa,’ he said on a typical morning. ‘How are things? I see your leg is healing.’

Rosa shrugged. ‘It’s taking for ever, but I’m getting there. And you? How are you finding our little town?’

‘It is a great city. But how do you cope with the smell of the canals?’

‘We’re used to it. We wouldn’t like the dust and filth of Florence.’ She paused. ‘So, what brings you to me this time?’

Ezio smiled. ‘What you think and also not what you think.’ He hesitated. ‘I was hoping you could teach me how to climb like you do.’

She tapped her leg. ‘Time was,’ she said. ‘But if you are in a hurry, my friend Franco can do almost as well as me.’ She raised her voice. ‘Franco!’

A lissom, dark-haired youth appeared almost instantly in the doorway, and Ezio, to his private mortification, felt a pang of jealousy that was apparent enough for Rosa to notice. She smiled. ‘Don’t worry, tesoro, he’s as gay as Santo Sebastiano. But he’s also as tough as old boots. Franco! I want you to show Ezio some of our tricks.’ She looked out of the window. An unoccupied building opposite was covered with bamboo scaffolding tied together with leather thongs. She pointed. ‘Take him up that for a start.’

Ezio spent the rest of the morning – three hours – chasing after Franco, under Rosa’s strident direction. At the end of it, he could clamber up to a giddying height with almost all the speed and address of his mentor, and had learned how to jump upwards from one handhold to the next, though he doubted if he’d ever reach Rosa’s own standard.

‘Lunch lightly,’ Rosa said, sparing him any praise. ‘We haven’t finished for the day.’

In the afternoon, in the hours of the siesta, she took him to the square of the massive redbrick Frari church. Together they looked up at its bulk. ‘Climb that,’ Rosa said. ‘Up to the very top. And I want you back down here before I have counted three hundred.’

Ezio sweated and strained, his head swimming with the effort.

‘Four hundred and thirty-nine,’ announced Rosa when he rejoined her. ‘Again!’

At the end of the fifth attempt an exhausted and sweating Ezio felt that all he wanted to do now was smash Rosa in the face, but that desire melted when she smiled at him and said, ‘Two hundred and ninety-three. You’ll just about do.’

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The small crowd that had gathered applauded.


Over the following months the Thieves’ Guild tackled the tasks of reorganizing and refitting. Then, one morning, Ugo arrived at Ezio’s lodgings to invite him to a meeting. Ezio packed his Codex weapons in a satchel and followed Ugo to the headquarters, where they found Antonio, in an ebullient mood, once again moving the little wooden manikins around the model of the Palazzo Seta. Ezio wondered if the man wasn’t a little obsessed. Rosa, Franco and two or three of the other senior members of the Guild were also present.

‘Ah, Ezio!’ he smiled. ‘Thanks to your recent successes we are now in a position to counter-attack. Our target is Emilio’s warehouse, not far from his palazzo. This is the plan. Look!’ He tapped the model and indicated lines of little blue wooden soldiers ranged around the perimeters of the warehouse. ‘These are Emilio’s archers. They represent our greatest danger. Under cover of night, I intend to send you and a couple of others up to the roofs of the buildings adjoining the warehouse – and I know that you are up to this task, thanks to Rosa’s recent training – to drop down on the archers and dispose of them. Quietly. As you do so, our men, dressed in the Barbarigo uniforms we have captured, will move in from the alleyways around and take their places.’

Ezio pointed to the red manikins within the warehouse walls. ‘What about the guards inside?’

‘When you’ve dealt with the archers we’ll gather here…’ Antonio pointed to a piazza nearby which Ezio recognized as the one where Leonardo had his new workshop – he wondered briefly how his friend was progressing with his commissions, ‘... and discuss the next steps.’

‘When do we make our move?’ asked Ezio.


‘Excellent! Let me have a couple of good men. Ugo, Franco, are you with me?’ The two nodded, grinning. ‘We’ll take care of the archers and meet you as you suggest.’

‘With our men in place of their archers, they won’t suspect a thing.’

‘And the next move?’

‘Once we’ve secured the warehouse, we’ll launch an attack on the palazzo itself. But remember! Be stealthy! They must not suspect a thing!’ Antonio grinned, and spat. ‘Good luck, my friends – in bocca al lupo!’ He patted Ezio’s shoulder.

‘Crepi il lupo,’ Ezio replied, spitting too.

The operation passed off that night without a hitch. The Barbarigo archers didn’t know what had hit them, and so subtly were they replaced with Antonio’s men that the guards inside the warehouse fell quietly and without much resistance to the thieves’ onslaught, having been unaware that their comrades outside had been neutralized.

The attack on the palazzo was next on Antonio’s agenda, but Ezio insisted that he went ahead first to assess the lie of the land. Rosa, the last stages of whose recovery had been remarkable thanks to the combined skills of Antonio and Bianca, and who could now climb and leap almost as well as if she had been back to her full fitness, wanted to accompany him, but Antonio, to her anger, vetoed this. It crossed Ezio’s mind that Antonio, in the end, considered him more expendable than her, but he brushed off the thought and prepared himself for the reconnaissance mission, strapping on his left arm the Codex guard-brace with its double-dagger, and, on his right, the original spring-blade. He had a lot of difficult climbing to do, and he didn’t want to risk the poison-blade since in any circumstances it was a truly lethal weapon and he was keen to avoid any accident with it that might prove fatal to himself.

Pulling his hood up over his head and using the new techniques of upward leaping which Rosa and Franco had taught him, he stormed up the outer walls of the palazzo, silent as a shadow and drawing less attention, until he was on its roof and looking down into its garden. There he noticed two men in deep conversation. They were making for a side gate leading to a narrow, private canal which led round the back of the palazzo. Following their progress from the roof, Ezio could see that a gondola was moored at a little jetty there, its two gondoliers clad in black and its lanterns doused. Sure-footed as a gecko on the roofs and walls, he hastened down and sheltered himself in the branches of a tree from which he could hear their conversation. The two men were Emilio Barbarigo and, as Ezio recognized with a shock, none other than Carlo Grimaldi, one of Doge Mocenigo’s entourage. They were accompanied by Emilio’s secretary, a spindly man dressed in grey, whose heavy reading glasses kept slipping down his nose.

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