Assassin's Creed: Renaissance Page 65

‘He is as big an enemy as his cousin Emilio was.’

‘We will help you,’ said Teodora, joining them. ‘And our chance presents itself soon. The Doge is throwing a massive party for Carnevale and he will have to leave the palazzo for that. No expense has been spared, as he wants to buy the people’s favour even if he cannot earn it. According to my spies, he has even ordered fireworks from China!’

‘This is why I asked you here today,’ Antonio explained to Ezio. ‘Sister Teodora is one of us, and she has her finger on the very pulse of Venice.’

‘How do I get invited to this party?’ Ezio asked her.

‘It isn’t easy,’ she replied. ‘You need a golden mask to get you in.’

‘Well, it can’t be so hard to lay hands on one of those.’

‘Not so fast – each mask is an invitation, and each is numbered.’ But then Teodora smiled. ‘Never mind, I have an idea. I think it’s possible that we might win you a mask. Come, walk with me.’ She led him away from the others to a quiet little courtyard at the rear of the building, where a fountain played in an ornamental pool.

‘They are holding some special carnival games which are open to all tomorrow. There are four events, and the winner will be awarded a golden mask and will be an honorary guest at the party. You must win it, Ezio, for access to the party gives you access to Marco Barbarigo.’ She looked at him. ‘When you go, I advise you to take that little spitfire of yours with you, for you won’t get close enough to knife him.’

‘May I ask you a question?’

‘You can try. I cannot guarantee an answer.’

‘I am curious. You wear the habit of a nun, and yet clearly you are no such thing.’

‘How do you know that? I assure you, my son, that I am married to the Lord.’

‘But I don’t understand. You are also a courtesan. Indeed, you run a bordello.’

Teodora smiled. ‘I see no contradiction. How I choose to practise my faith, what I choose to do with my body – these are my choices and I am free to make them.’ She paused in thought for a moment. ‘Look,’ she continued. ‘Like so many young women, I was drawn to the Church, but gradually I became disillusioned with the so-called believers in this city. Men only hold God as an idea in their heads, and not in the depths of their hearts and their bodies. Do you see what I am getting at, Ezio? Men must know how to love in order to attain salvation. My girls and I provide that knowledge to our congregation. Of course, no imaginable sect of the Church would agree with me, so I was obliged to create my own. It may not be traditional, but it works, and men’s hearts grow firmer in my care.’

‘Among other things, I imagine.’

‘You are cynical, Ezio.’ She extended her hand to him. ‘Come back tomorrow and we will see about these games. Take care of yourself in the meantime and don’t forget your mask. I know you can take care of yourself, but our enemies are still out to get you.’

There were some small adjustments Ezio wanted on his new gun, so he returned to Leonardo’s workshop on his way back to the Thieves’ Guild headquarters.

‘I am glad to see you again, Ezio.’

‘You were right about Sister Teodora, Leonardo. Truly a Freethinker.’

‘She would get into trouble with the Church if she weren’t so well protected; but she has some powerful admirers.’

‘I can imagine.’ But Ezio noticed that Leonardo was slightly abstracted, and looking at him strangely. ‘What is it, Leo?’

‘Perhaps it would be better not to tell you, but if you found out by accident it would be worse. Look, Ezio, Cristina Calfucci is in Venice with her husband for Carnevale. Of course she’s Cristina d’Arzenta now.’

‘Where is she staying?’

‘She and Manfredo are the guests of my patron. That is how I know.’

‘I must see her!’

‘Ezio – are you sure that’s such a good idea?’

‘I’ll collect the gun in the morning. I’ll need it by then, I’m afraid – I have some urgent business to attend to.’

‘Ezio, I wouldn’t go out unarmed.’

‘I still have my Codex blades.’

Heart pumping, Ezio made his way to the Palazzo Pexaro, via the office of a public scribe whom he paid to write a short note, which read:

Cristina my darling

I must meet you alone and away from our hosts this evening at the nineteenth hour. I will await you at the Sign of the Sundial in the Rio Terra degli Ognisanti –

- and he had it signed, ‘Manfredo’. Then he delivered it to the Conte‘s palazzo, and waited.

It had been a long shot, but it worked. She soon emerged with only a maidservant to chaperone her, and hurried in the direction of Dorsoduro. He followed her. When she arrived at the appointed spot and her chaperone had retired to a discreet distance, he stepped forward. Both of them were wearing their carnival masks, but he could tell that she was as beautiful as ever. He could not help himself. He took her in his arms and kissed her long and tenderly.

Finally she broke free and, taking off her mask, she looked at him uncomprehendingly. Then, before he could stop her, she had reached up and removed his own mask.


‘Forgive me, Cristina, I -‘ He noticed she no longer wore his pendant. Of course not.

‘What the hell are you doing here? How dare you kiss me like that?’

‘Cristina, it’s all right…’

‘All right? I haven’t seen or heard from you in eight years!’

‘I was just afraid you wouldn’t come at all if I didn’t use a little subterfuge.’

‘You’re quite right – of course I wouldn’t have come! I seem to remember that the last time we met you kissed me in the street and then, as cool as a cucumber, saved my fiancé’s life and left me to marry him.’

‘It was the right thing to do. He loved you, and I -‘

‘Who cares what he wanted? I loved you!’

Ezio didn’t know what to say. He felt as if the world had fallen away from him.

‘Don’t seek me out again, Ezio,’ continued Cristina, tears in her eyes. ‘I can’t bear it, and you clearly have another life now.’

‘Cristina -‘

‘There was a time when you would only have had to crook your finger, and I -‘ She interrupted herself. ‘Goodbye, Ezio.’

He watched helplessly as she walked away, rejoined her companion, and disappeared round a corner of the street. She had not looked back.

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