Veleno had never been on the field before. Falco always said he was too young. Veleno never thought so; at fifteen, he had run a smuggling business as well as a slum-boys order. Currently seventeen and a trained assassin, he felt as though Falco was just being protective.
Now that they were down Falco, Lupo agreed to walk him through this. The elder lay beside him, on his stomach, vigilantly watching the night.
He smelled of perfumes. An anomaly for the rustic peasant’s son. However, Lupo, now dressed as a nobleman, had to do whatever it took to be convincing.
The form of the Signor di Firenze was vague, but the trained and finely honed assassins knew where to look. Even caped in black, almost imperceptible to the human eye, he was distinctly visible.
Veleno watched the lord stalk through the lower areas of Pisa. He narrowed his eyes. Where was the richest man in Firenze going without an escort at this unholy hour?
After a week, the youth was almost sure that the Lord Battaglia would leave the prospect. Pierotto had been tried and and had been found guilty. He was to be executed for his crime at dawn.
There wasn’t much to it, really. How come this Ettore still thought him innocent? Veleno raised a dark, Spanish brow.
The ways of the aristocracy were not to be studied.
They were to be exterminated.
“Here comes the militia,” Lupo hissed. He darted from the rooftop to hide in the rafters of the establishment.
Veleno didn’t question and followed. He tucked himself easily into the shadow of the building, invisible in the darkness. The distinct clanking of armor then sounded down the street. Veleno’s heart fluttered with anticipation. He wanted so much to attack; he hadn’t had the chance to kill in a couple years now. The thrill would come back in at least one slash of the sword.
Ettore was almost past the militia.
As a nobleman, it was the duty of the guard to watch over him. The signor was to go nowhere unaccompanied, especially at night. He was to be watched, as though a criminal, and to be cared for, as though a child.
Apparently, in their eyes, a soldier became helpless when he was given his rank in society.
“Signor, halt,” one of the guards called. “Where are you going without your escorts?”
Ettore obeyed and stopped. He turned to them. These two guards were below the standard of the army, and he wondered that, in the first sign of danger, it was be he who was protecting them. He held back a laugh of pity.
“I just need fresh air, signori, /sirs/” he stated innocently, hands open in a sign of harmlessness. “No need to follow me.”
The two guards exchanged a confused look, and the first who had spoken again opened his mouth. “You get outside for fresh air…” His stupid brow furrowed. “So you’re on your way to the prison?”
Even an idiot figured it out. Ettore prayed for patience. “This is important, signori,” he said quietly, coming up to their faces. “Tell my servants that I’ll be home late.”
The second guard - obviously a man who thought he was smart - puffed up his chest. “Oh, no, Signor di Firenze. We were told that after sundown, we were to follow you wherever you go outside the villa.”
The lord bit his tongue and let out a small groan, but he did his best to appear sincere. “I believe you would do your job well at keeping me safe,” he began, “perhaps you could do so from afar?”
The first guard cocked his head. “I suppose so…”
The second jabbed his companion. “He’s trying to shake us off! Don’t fall for it!” He frowned and chewed his cheek. “At least, that what it sounds like.”
Ettore shrugged innocently.
The smart idiot squinted at him. “Seems trustworthy,” he muttered. “We can watch you as far as the eye can see. I’ve got the eyes of a fox. I can watch you from anywhere.”
The lord raised his brows in a version of interest. “Si? You could do that?”
The guards excitedly nodded and ran to hide in the shadows.
Ettore stifled a triumphant laugh as he pressed forward. The night was cold, as were all in winter, and he clutched his cloak to himself. Despite the efforts of the weather, he needed to see Pierotto.
He needed to know what had happened from him.
The prison was easy to enter given his status, and he said a prayer of thanksgiving. His grandfather was looking out for him.
“Be quick,” ordered the guard as he roughly opened the barred door.
Ettore gingerly entered as to not step in the unspeakable refuse. He was shocked at the state of the prison, and its inhabitants. On the journey through the corridors, he had heard endless moans and the cries of pained sinners. He wondered if it was the weight of their wrongdoings or the state of the place at which they cried.
Ettore wondered at himself. In the line of duty, he would tread wherever without thought. Only, now he was wearing embroidered leather boots from Spain, and they looked like a pain to clean…
Gathering up his cloak, a deep breath, and the courage, the young lord stepped into his half brother’s cell.
A week in prison was eternity en il Inferno to a noble such as Pierotto. He certainly seemed as though a tortured soul; haggard with the darkest eyes. His beard - usually more black than silver - was half stained white from the fear of what was to come.
Pierotto had been half asleep until he heard the door open. He shot up immediately, his face more gaunt than before. His eyes were wild- rather uncharacteristic, as Ettore would think. Pierotto always had a cool head on his shoulders with a higher capacity for reason than his eight siblings. Even then, Ettore considered himself the most realistic. Even all those years ago, Ettore could admire the mature, serious man with no room for excuses.
But that man was gone. Pierotto was hysterical.
“Get away from me,” he exclaimed, scrambling back from the guard who ushered the young lord inside. “Va, va, va! /Go away, go!/” He pushed himself into the corner of the room and covered his face with his hands.
He was absolutely afraid of death.
Ettore had to pity him. When he was in the army, there was no doubt in his head that he was able to die in seconds. He accepted it. He hadn’t ever been afraid of leaving, really, after what his childhood had done to him. He had no one to miss except Grandfather.
But this man had a family, friends, a wife to take care of. He had reason to live further.
And Ettore didn’t.
Pierotto sobbed hysterically under the cover of his hands, and Ettore was frozen for a few moments, moved to thought. The guard behind him huffed exasperatedly and moved to hoist up the fear-stricken man. Ettore stopped him with a slight but still authoritative shake of the head, his eyes still set on his half brother.
“Leave us,” he finally said in a conclusive tone.
The guard’s eyes shot to his superior. “Signor,” he whispered, “this man has been charged with murder. Is that such a good-”
“I make my choices,” Ettore interrupted sharply. “I know what I’m doing.”
The guard hesitated again, he complied, a stammer in his step. Finally, his falter ended and the iron door shut with groaning, screeching protest.
Ettore sucked in a deep breath and held it. He knotted his hands behind his back in nervousness.
“I know you didn’t do it,” he stated softly.
The small, childish sobs that resonated from the pitiful slump in the corner paused, and the shocked eyes of Pierotto appeared from behind his hand. “What?”
“I know you couldn’t do it,” Ettore stressed. “I mean, you couldn’t land a blow a hair away from you. Any blessings you could have had in the ways of swordsmanship are gone.”
Pierotto shot to his feet and embraced his brother to him. He began to weep again. “Tell them,” he choked, “please, find a way to prove I haven’t done this crime!”
Ettore stepped back a bit; he was unrehearsed in the ways of affection, so much so that he was prepared for an attack. His guard lowered and he awkwardly patted his brother’s shoulder. “I could try,” he said unsurely, “but most evidence is plotted against you.”
Pierotto pulled away from the lord and crashed to his knees. “I have never owned a stiletto like that,” his voice ever more assertive. “I have never owned a stiletto ever!”
“What could I say about that?” Ettore crouched to his brother’s broken form. “I have nothing substantial against your accusers. The Signor Ezio D’Ambrogio has your head tomorrow morning.”
His older brother looked up again. His eyes were red and sore.
“Please,” he begged, his voice hoarse with tears. “Tell them something.”
Ettore was still ambivalent to the matter.
Anyone could be playing this, especially one with his brother’s heinous personal record. As far as Ettore could remember, Pierotto had been a manipulator, a cheat, a liar, and a tyrant, but it was only towards Ettore. He was sweet as turron towards everyone else in the family.
How come he was begging him for help now? Could it be because he truly was guilty?
Pierotto had nothing against the woman who lay dead in the mortuary, awaiting her funeral. As heartless as he was, he would never murder anyone, much less a stranger.
“I will do everything in my power,” he whispered. He prayed it was strong enough.