Assassin's Creed: Renaissance Page 69

‘Then we’ll go immediately,’ said Ezio, following him off the bridge.

They found Antonio in his office in the company – to Ezio’s surprise – of Agostino Barbarigo. Antonio made the introductions.

‘It is an honour to meet you, sir. I am sorry for the loss of your brother.’

Agostino waved a hand. ‘I appreciate your sympathy, but to be frank my brother was a fool and completely under the control of the Borgia faction in Rome – something I would not wish on Venice ever. Luckily, some public-spirited person has averted that danger by assassinating him. In a curiously original way… There will be inquiries, of course, but I am at a loss personally to see where they will lead…’

‘Messer Agostino is shortly to be elected Doge,’ put in Antonio. ‘It is good news for Venice.’

‘The Council of Forty-One has worked fast this time,’ said Ezio, drily.

‘I think they have learnt the error of their ways,’ replied Agostino with a wry smile. ‘But I do not wish to be Doge in name only, as my brother was. Which brings us to the business in hand. Our ghastly cousin Silvio has occupied the Arsenal – the military quarter of town – and garrisoned it with two hundred mercenaries!’

‘But when you are Doge, can’t you command them to stand down?’ asked Ezio.

‘It would be nice to think so,’ said Agostino, ‘but my brother’s extravagances have depleted the city’s resources, and we will be hard put to it to withstand a determined force who have control of the Arsenal. And without the Arsenal, I have no real control of Venice, Doge or no Doge!’

‘Then,’ said Ezio. ‘We must raise a determined force of our own.’

‘Well said!’ Antonio beamed. ‘And I think I have just the man for the job. Have you heard of Bartolomeo d’Alviano?’

‘Of course. The condottiero who used to serve the Papal States! He’s turned against them, I know.’

‘And just now he’s based here. He has little love for Silvio, who, as you know, is also in Cardinal Borgia’s pocket,’ said Agostino. ‘Bartolomeo’s based on San Pietro, east of the Arsenal.’

‘I’ll go and see him.’

‘Before you do that, Ezio,’ said Antonio, ‘Messer Agostino has something for you.’

From his robes Agostino withdrew a rolled, ancient vellum scroll, with a heavy black seal, broken, hanging from a tattered red ribbon. ‘My brother had it among his papers. Antonio thought it might interest you. Consider it a payment for… services rendered.’

Ezio took it. He knew immediately what it was. ‘Thank you, Signore. I am sure this will be of great help in the battle which will surely come.’

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Pausing only to arm himself, Ezio wasted no time in making his way to Leonardo’s workshop, where he was surprised to find his friend in the process of packing up.

‘Where are you off to now?’ asked Ezio.

‘Back to Milan. I was going to send you a message before I left, of course. And to send you a packet of bullets for your little gun.’

‘Well, I am very glad I’ve caught you. Look, I have another Codex page!’

‘Excellent. I am most interested in seeing those. Come in. My servant Luca and the others can carry on with this. I’ve got them quite well trained by now. Pity I can’t take them all with me.’

‘What are you going to do in Milan?’

‘Lodovico Sforza made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.’

‘But what about your projects here?’

‘The navy’s had to cancel. No money for new projects. Apparently the last Doge ran through most of it. I could have done him fireworks, no need to have gone to all the expense of sending off to China for them. Never mind, Venice is still at peace with the Turks, and they’ve told me I’m welcome to come back – in fact, I think they’d like me to. Meanwhile I’m leaving Luca behind – he’d be a fish out of water away from Venice – with a few basic designs to get them started. And as for the Conte, he’s happy with his family portraits – though personally I think they could do with more work.’ Leonardo started to unroll the vellum sheet. ‘Now, let’s have a look at this.’

‘Promise you’ll let me know when you return here.’

‘I promise, my friend. And you – keep me posted on your movements if you can.’

‘I will.’

‘Now…’ Leonardo spread the Codex page out and examined it. ‘There’s something here that looks like a blueprint for the double-bladed knife that went with your metal guard-bracer, but it’s incomplete and may be an earlier draft of the design. The rest can only be significant in connection with the other pages – look, there are more map-like markings and some kind of picture that puts me in mind of those complex knot-patterns I used to doodle when I had any time to think for myself!’ Leonardo rolled up the page again and looked at Ezio. ‘I’d put this in a safe place with the other two pages you’ve shown me here in Venice. They’re all clearly of great significance.’

‘Actually, Leo, if you’re going to Milan I wonder if I might ask you a favour?’

‘Fire away.’

‘When you get to Padua, would you please organize a trustworthy courier to take these three pages to my Uncle Mario in Monteriggioni? He’s an… antiquarian… and I know he’ll find them interesting. But I need someone I can depend on to do this for me.’

Leonardo gave him the ghost of a smile. If Ezio hadn’t been so preoccupied, he might almost have thought it knowing. ‘I’m sending my stuff straight on to Milan, but as for myself I’m paying a flying visit – to coin a phrase – to Florence first to check on Agniolo and Innocento, so I’ll be your courier as far as there, and I’ll send Agniolo on to Monteriggioni with them, have no fear.’

‘That is better than I could have hoped for.’ Ezio grasped his hand. ‘You are a good and wonderful friend, Leo.’

‘I certainly hope so, Ezio. Occasionally I think you could do with someone truly to look out for you.’ He paused. ‘And I wish you well in your work. I hope one day you will be able to bring it to a conclusion, and find rest.’

A distant look came into Ezio’s steel-grey eyes, but he didn’t reply except to say, ‘You’ve reminded me – I have another errand to run. I’ll send one of my host’s men over with the other two Codex pages. And now, for the moment, addio!’

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