Assassin's Creed: Renaissance Page 58

Time passed, and Venice seemed to be at peace. No one mourned Emilio’s disappearance; indeed, many believed him still to be alive, and some assumed he had just gone on a journey abroad to look after his business interests in the Kingdom of Naples. Antonio made sure that the Palazzo Seta still ran like clockwork, and as long as the mercantile interests of Venice as a whole were not affected, nobody really cared about the fate of one businessman, however ambitious or successful he may have been.

Ezio and Rosa had grown closer, but a fierce rivalry still existed between them. Now she was healed, she wanted to prove herself, and one morning she came to his rooms and said, ‘Listen Ezio, I think you need a re-tune. I want to see if you’re still as good as you became when Franco and I first trained you. So – how about a race?’

‘A race?’



‘From here to the Punta della Dogana. Starting now!’ And she leapt out of the window before Ezio could react. He watched her as she scampered over the red rooftops and seemed almost to dance across the canals that separated the buildings. Throwing off his tunic, he raced after her.

At last they arrived, neck-and-neck, on the rooftop of the wooden building that stood on the spit of land at the end of the Dorsoduro, overlooking St Mark’s Canal and the lagoon. Across the water stood the low buildings of the monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore, and opposite, the shimmering pink stone edifice which was the Palazzo Ducale.

‘Looks like I won,’ said Ezio.

She frowned. ‘Nonsense. Anyway, even by saying that, you show yourself to be no gentleman and certainly no Venetian. But what can one expect of a Florentine?’ She paused. ‘In any case you are a liar. I won.’

Ezio shrugged and smiled. ‘Whatever you say, carissima.’

‘Then, to the victor, the spoils,’ she said, pulling his head down to hers and kissing him passionately upon the lips. Her body, now, was soft and warm, and infinitely yielding.


Emilio Barbarigo may not have been able to make the appointment in the Campo San Stefano himself, but Ezio was certainly not going to miss it. He positioned himself in the already bustling square at dawn on that bright morning late in 1485. The battle for ascendancy over the Templars was hard and long. Ezio began to believe that, as it had been for his father and was for his uncle, it would turn out to be his life’s work too.

His hood pulled up over his head, he melted into the crowd but stayed close as he saw the figure of Carlo Grimaldi approaching with another man, ascetic-looking, whose bushy auburn hair and beard were ill-sorted with his bluish, pallid skin, and who wore the red robes of a State Inquisitor. This, Ezio knew, was Silvio Barbarigo, Emilio’s cousin, whose soubriquet was ‘Il Rosso’. He did not look in a particularly good mood.

‘Where is Emilio?’ he asked impatiently.

Grimaldi shrugged. ‘I told him to be here.’

‘You told him yourself? In person?’

‘Yes,’ Grimaldi snapped back. ‘Myself! In person! I’m concerned that you don’t trust me.’

‘As am I,’ muttered Silvio. Grimaldi gritted his teeth at that, but Silvio merely looked around, abstractedly. ‘Well, perhaps he’ll arrive with the others. Let’s walk a while.’

They proceeded to stroll around the large, rectangular campo, past the church of San Vidal and the palaces at the Grand Canal end, up to San Stefano at the other, pausing from time to time to look at the wares the stallholders were setting out at the beginning of the day’s trading. Ezio shadowed them, but it was difficult. Grimaldi was on edge, and kept turning round suspiciously. At times it was all Ezio could do to keep his quarry within earshot.

‘While we’re waiting, you can bring me up to date with how things are at the Doge’s Palace,’ said Silvio.

Grimaldi spread his hands. ‘Well, to be honest with you, it’s not easy. Mocenigo keeps his circle close. I have tried to lay the groundwork, as you asked, making suggestions in the interest of our Cause, but of course I am not the only one vying for his attention, and old though he is, he’s a canny bugger.’

Silvio picked up a complicated-looking glass figurine from a stall, inspected it, and put it back. ‘Then you must work harder, Grimaldi. You must become part of his inner circle.’

‘I am already one of his closest and most trusted associates. It has taken me years to establish myself. Years of patient planning, of waiting, of accepting humiliations.’

‘Yes, yes,’ said Silvio impatiently. ‘But what have you to show for it?’

‘It’s harder than I expected.’

‘And why is that?’

Grimaldi made a gesture of frustration. ‘I don’t know. I do my utmost for the State, I work hard… But the fact is, Mocenigo doesn’t like me.’

‘I wonder why not,’ said Silvio coolly.

Grimaldi was too absorbed in his thoughts to notice the snub. ‘It’s not my fault! I keep trying to please the bastard! I find out what he most desires and lay it on for him – the finest jams from Sardinia, the latest fashions from Milan -‘

‘Maybe the Doge just doesn’t like sycophants.’

‘Do you think that’s what I am?’

‘Yes. A doormat, flatterer, a bootlicker – need I go on?’

Grimaldi looked at him. ‘Don’t you insult me, Inquisitore. You haven’t a clue what it’s like. You don’t understand the pressure in the -‘

‘Oh, I don’t understand pressure?’

‘No! You have no idea. You may be a state official but I am two steps from the Doge almost every waking hour of the day. You wish you could be in my shoes, because you think you could do better, but -‘

‘Have you finished?’

‘No! Just listen. I am close to the man. I have dedicated my life to establishing myself in this position, and I tell you I am convinced I can recruit Mocenigo to our Cause.’ Grimaldi paused. ‘I just need a little more time.’

‘It seems to me that you’ve had more than enough time already.’ Silvio broke off, and Ezio watched as he raised a hand to attract the attention of an expensively dressed elderly man with a flowing white beard, accompanied by a bodyguard who was the largest person Ezio had ever seen.

‘Good morning, Cousin,’ the newcomer greeted Silvio. ‘Grimaldi.’

‘Greetings, Cousin Marco,’ replied Silvio. He looked around. ‘Where is Emilio? Did he not come with you?’

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