Assassin's Creed: Renaissance Page 87

As she handed him the Map, their fingers touched, lingered and entwined. And their eyes would not leave each other’s.

‘There is an abbey in the Wetlands near here,’ Caterina said at last. ‘Dominicans. Their Order wears black hoods. I’d start there.’ Her eyes were shining and she looked away. ‘Now go! Find us that troublesome monk!’

Ezio smiled. ‘I think I’m going to miss you, Caterina.’

She smiled back, a bit too brightly. For once in her life she was finding it hard to be brave. ‘Oh, I know you will.’


The monk who welcomed Ezio at the Wetlands Abbey was as monks should be – plump and rubicund, but he had flaming red hair and puckish, shrewd eyes, and spoke with an accent Ezio recognized from some of the condottieri he’d encountered in Mario’s service – the man was from Ireland.

‘Blessings on you, brother.’

‘Grazie, Padre -‘

‘I am Brother O’Callahan -‘

‘I wonder if you can help me?’

‘That’s why we are here, brother. Of course, we live in troubled times. It’s hard to think straight without something in our stomachs.’

‘You mean something in your coin-purse.’

‘You take me wrong. I’m not asking you for anything.’ The monk spread his hands. ‘But the Lord helps the generous.’

Ezio shook out some florins and passed them across. ‘If it’s not enough…’

The monk looked reflective. ‘Ah, well, the thought is there. But the truth is that the Lord actually helps the slightly more generous.’

Ezio continued shaking out coins until Brother O’Callahan’s expression cleared. ‘The Order appreciates your open-handedness, brother.’ He folded his hands on his belly. ‘What do you seek?’

‘A black-hooded monk – who lacks one of his ten fingers.’

‘Hmmn. Brother Guido has only nine toes. Are you sure it wasn’t a toe?’

‘Quite sure.’

‘And then there’s Brother Domenico, but it’s his entire left arm he’s lacking.’

‘No. I’m sorry, but I’m quite sure it was a finger.’

‘Hmmn.’ The monk paused, deep in thought. ‘Now, wait a moment! I do recall a black-cowled monk with only nine fingers… Yes! Of course! It was when we had our last San Vicenzo’s Feast at our abbey in Tuscany.’

Ezio smiled. ‘Yes, I know the place. I’ll try there. Grazie.’

‘Go in peace, brother.’

‘I always do.’

Ezio crossed the mountains westwards into Tuscany, and though the journey was a long and difficult one, as autumn approached and the days became unkinder, he felt his greatest trepidation when he approached the abbey – for it was the place where one of those implicated in the plot to assassinate Lorenzo de’ Medici – Jacopo de’ Pazzi’s secretary, Stefano de Bagnone – had met his end at Ezio’s hands long ago.

It was unfortunate that the abbot who greeted him here was one who had been a witness to that killing.

‘Excuse me,’ Ezio said to him first. ‘I wonder if you can -‘

But the abbot, recognizing him, drew back in horror, and cried, ‘May all the Archangels – Uriel, Raphael, Michael, Saraquêl, Gabriel, Remiel and Raguel – may they all in their Mightiness protect us!’ He turned his blazing eyes from heaven to Ezio. ‘Unholy Demon! Begone!’

‘What’s the matter?’ said Ezio, in consternation.

‘What’s the matter? What’s the matter? You are the one who murdered Brother Stefano. On this Holy Ground!’ A nervous group of brothers had gathered at a safe distance, and the abbot now turned to them. ‘He has returned! The killer of monks and priests has returned!’ he pronounced in a voice of thunder, and then took flight, followed by his flock.

The man was clearly in a state of high panic. Ezio had no choice but to give chase. The abbey was not as familiar to him as to the Abbot and his troop of monks. At last he tired of hurtling round unfamiliar stone corridors and cloisters, and leapt to the rooftops to get a better view of where the monks were headed, but this only threw them into a greater panic, and they started to scream, ‘He’s come! He’s come! Beëlzebub is come!’ and so he desisted and stuck to conventional means of pursuit.

Finally, he caught up with them. Panting, the Abbot rounded on him and croaked: ‘Begone, demon! Leave us alone! We have done no sin so great as thine!’

‘No, wait, listen,’ panted Ezio, almost equally out of breath. ‘I just want to ask you a question.’

‘We have called down no demons upon us! We seek no journey to the Afterlife just yet!’

Ezio placed his palms downwards. ‘Please. Calma! I wish you no harm!’

But the Abbot wasn’t listening. He rolled his eyes. ‘My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? I’m not yet ready to join your angels!’

And he took to his heels again.

Ezio was obliged to bring him down in an arms-to-feet tackle. They both got up, dusting themselves down in the middle of a circle of goggling monks.

‘Stop running away, please!’ pleaded Ezio.

The Abbot cowered. ‘No! Have mercy! I don’t want to die!’ he burbled.

Ezio, conscious that he was sounding prim, said: ‘Look, Father Abbot, I only kill those who kill others. And your Brother Stefano was a killer. He tried to murder Duke Lorenzo in 1478.’ He paused, breathing heavily. ‘Be reassured, Messer Abate, I’m certain you are no such thing as a murderer.’

The Abbot’s look became a trace calmer, but there was still suspicion in his eyes.

‘What do you want, then?’ he said.

‘All right, now, listen to me. I’m looking for a monk dressed like you are – a Dominican – who is missing a finger.’

The Abbot looked wary. ‘Missing a finger, do you say? Like Fra’ Savonarola?’

Ezio seized on the name. ‘Savonarola? Who is he? Do you know him?’

‘I did, Messer. He was one of us… for a time.’

‘And then?’

The Abbot shrugged. ‘We suggested he take a nice long rest at a hermitage in the mountains. He didn’t quite… fit in here…’

‘It seems to me, Abate, that his time as a hermit may be over. Do you know where he may have gone now?’

‘Oh dear me…’ The Abbot searched his mind. ‘If he’s left the hermitage, it may be that he has returned to Santa Maria del Carmine, in Florence. It’s where he studied. Perhaps that’s where he’d go back to.’

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