Assassin's Creed: Renaissance Page 94

‘You’ve done well, Ezio,’ Paola told him, as they waited with La Volpe and Machiavelli before the gates of the San Marco complex, together with a large, expectant and unruly crowd gathered from the free districts.

‘Thank you. But what happens now?’

‘Watch,’ said Machiavelli.

With a loud crash a door opened above their heads and a lean figure swathed in black appeared on a balcony. The Monk glowered at the assembled populace. ‘Silence!’ he commanded. ‘I demand silence!’

Awed despite themselves, the crowd quietened.

‘Why are you here?’ demanded Savonarola. ‘Why do you disturb me? You should be cleansing your homes!’

But the crowd roared its disapproval. ‘Of what?’ one man yelled. ‘You’ve already taken everything!’

‘I have held my hand!’ Savonarola shouted back. ‘But now you will do as I command! You will submit!’

And from his robes he produced the Apple and raised it high. Ezio saw that the hand which held it lacked a finger. Instantly, the Apple started to glow, and the crowd fell back, gasping. But Machiavelli, remaining calm, steadied himself and unhesitatingly threw a knife which pierced the Monk’s forearm. With a cry of pain and rage, Savonarola let go of the Apple, which fell from the balcony into the throng below.

‘Nooooo!’ he screamed. But all of a sudden he seemed diminished, his demeanour both embarrassing and pathetic. That was enough for the mob. It rallied, and stormed the gates of San Marco.

‘Quick, Ezio,’ said La Volpe. ‘Find the Apple. It can’t be far away.’

Ezio could see it, rolling unheeded between the feet of the crowd. He dived in among them, getting badly knocked about, but at last it was within his grasp. Quickly he transferred it to the safety of his belt-pouch. The gates of San Marco were open now – probably some of the brethren within considered that discretion was the better part of valour and wanted to save their church and monastery as well as their own skins by bowing to the inevitable. There were not a few among them too who had had enough of the Monk’s tiresome despotism. The crowd surged through the gates, to re-emerge, some minutes later, bearing Savonarola, kicking and screaming, on their shoulders.

‘Take him to the Palazzo della Signoria,’ commanded Machiavelli. ‘Let him be tried there!’

‘Idiots! Blasphemers!’ yelled Savonarola. ‘God bears witness to this sacrilege! How dare you handle His prophet in this way!’ He was partly drowned out by the angry shouts of the crowd, but he was as livid as he was frightened, and he kept it up – for the Monk knew (not that he thought in quite these terms) that this was his last roll of the dice. ‘Heretics! You’ll all burn in hell for this! Do you hear me? Burn!’

Ezio and his fellow Assassins followed as the mob bore the Monk away, still crying out his mixture of pleas and threats: ‘The sword of God will fall upon the Earth swiftly and suddenly. Release me, for only I can save you from His wrath! My children, heed me before it is too late! There is but one true salvation, and you forsake the path to it for mere material gain! If you do not bow again to me, all Florence shall know the anger of the Lord – and this city will fall like Sodom and Gomorrah, for He will know the depth of your betrayal. Aiutami, Dio! I am brought down by ten thousand Judases!’

Ezio was close enough to hear one of the citizens carrying the Monk say, ‘Oh, enough of your lies. You’ve been pouring out nothing but misery and hatred since you first walked among us!’

‘God may be in your head, Monk,’ said another, ‘but he is far from your heart.’

They were approached the Piazza della Signoria now, and others in the crowd took up the triumphant cry.

‘We have suffered enough! We shall be free people once more!’

‘Soon, the light of life will return to our city!’

‘We must punish the traitor! He is the true heretic! He twisted the Word of God to suit himself!’ a woman shouted.

‘The yoke of religious tyranny is broken at last,’ another exclaimed. ‘Savonarola will at last be punished.’

‘The truth illuminates us and fear has fled!’ yelled a third. ‘Your words hold sway here no more, Monk!’

‘You claimed to be His prophet, but your words were dark and cruel. You called us puppets of the devil – I think, perhaps, the true puppet was you!’

Ezio and his friends had no need to intercede further – the machinery they had set in motion would do the rest of their work for them. The leaders of the city, as eager to save their own skins as to claw back power for themselves, streamed out of the Signoria to show their support. A stage was erected and on it a huge stack of kindling and wood was raised around three stakes, while Savonarola and his two most ardent lieutenants were dragged into the Signoria for a brief and savage trial. As he had shown no mercy, no mercy would be shown to him. Soon they reappeared in shackles, were led to the stakes, and bound to them.

‘Oh Lord my God, pity me,’ Savonarola was heard to plead. ‘Deliver me from evil’s embrace! Surrounded as I am by sin, I cry out to you for salvation!’

‘You wanted to burn me,’ a man jeered. ‘Now the tables are turned!’

The executioners put torches into the wood around the stakes. Ezio watched, his mind on his kinsmen who had met their ends so many years ago at this selfsame place.

‘Infelix ego,’ prayed Savonarola in a loud voice filled with pain as the fire began to take. ‘Omnium auxilio destitutus... I have broken the laws of heaven and earth. Which way can I turn? Whom can I run to? Who will take pity on me? I dare not look up to Heaven as I have sinned grievously against it. I can find no refuge on Earth as I have been a scandal to it also…’

Ezio approached, getting as close as he could. Despite the grief he has occasioned me, no man, even this one, deserves to die in such pain, he thought. He extracted his loaded pistola from his satchel and attached it to his right-arm mechanism. At that moment, Savonarola noticed him and stared, half in fear and half in hope.

‘It’s you,’ he said, raising his voice above the roar of the fire, but in essence the two communicated by an interconnection of their minds. ‘I knew this day would come. Brother, please show me the pity I did not show you. I left you to the mercy of wolves and dogs.’

Ezio raised his arm. ‘Fare well, padre,’ he said, and fired. In the pandemonium around the blaze his movement and the noise the gun made went unnoticed. Savonarola’s head sank on to his chest. ‘Go now in peace, that you may be judged by your God,’ said Ezio quietly. ‘Requiescat in pace.’ He glanced at the two lieutenant monks, Domenico and Silvestro, but they were already dead, their burst guts spewed out on the hissing fire. The stench of burnt meat was heavy in everyone’s nostrils. The crowd was beginning to calm down. Soon, there was little noise other than the crackling of the flames as they finished their work.

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