When the Devil Came to Florence (cntd)
1. Light winds from Venezia
If there was one thing that Michele Cellini knew, it was that, should there ever be some sort of mass riot against the notorious idiocy that was the Alessandro Foscari, he would be leading it.
But, despite Michele’s fervent wishes, there wasn’t a mass riot. There wasn’t even a communal grumble. Alessandro Foscari, for all his insufferable nature, was loved by the people of Firenze. Hailing from the Venetian shores of the Adriatic, he had carried with him all the charm and the grandeur of the Empire. An apt swordsman with a sharp mind and a sharper tongue, he was welcomed into Firenze’s arms like a long lost lover.
Why this was had been beyond Michele. Somehow, the Foscari boy was even immune to the authorities. Every time he swept past in the street, with his infernal cape blazing its usual trail, it was the equivalent of his rubbing Michele’s face in the mud. His flagrant disregard for the sumptuary laws was, quite frankly, offensive and despite Michele’s protests - no one seemed to give a damn.
Now, Michele liked to think of himself as an open-minded, modern, young man, embracing the suddenly closer world that new trade routes brought - after all this was the 15th century. Be it the Neapolitans or even the Ottomans, he had found himself willing to learn of their ways. Not for any higher moral purpose, he had to admit, but it was excellent for trade. But despite all of this, he drew the line at Foscari. He absolutely drew the line.
That man seemed to taunt him in a silent way that made his blood boil. “Buongiorno, messere.” He would simper all too familiarly, nod his head with the slightest jaunt of disrespect that made Michele’s eyes twitch with fury.
Good god how he just wanted to run that man through.
He cursed the day it had all started. Cursed it to hell and back. Whatever he had done in a past life must surely have been terrible for God to send the devil in the form of that man. What had been a beautiful spring morning had turned bitter by the time the sun slipped behind the horizon.
He remembered it clearly. It had been a day where the season wasn’t quite sure if it were Spring or Summer, where the usual, stagnant heat had been whirled away by a light wind. It was the usual lazy day. He was meant to be helping his Father with the accounts, but, as usual, that plan never transpired. Instead, he had spent the large part of the day with his brothers, Niccolo and Luca, lounging about in the shade underneath Il Campanile. Niccolo, the eldest, had been catcalling to whichever woman he was now madly in love with when the hideous shadow of the Venetian began to descend onto Firenze’s doorstep.
“A gentleman, a gentleman!” Children in rags called, spilling out of the alleyways like an infestation of happy rats.
Heads turned and conversation lit up like candles in the street.
Michele clicked his tongue in disapproval while his brothers lifted their heads high in interest. Folding his arms, he stepped out of the shade, pretending to look uniterested as he scanned for signs of movement along the horizon. Where would this one be from? Further into Toscana? Roma? The Republic of Siena? He had to admit, the excitement in the streets was infectious. So much so, it surely had to be someone of relative importance.
The children in rags were still scrabbling around and squawking like pigeons, jumping to and fro as figures began to form in the watery haze of heat. The sure and steady sound of metal hooves on dust and cobbles began to rise from the distance along with the clatter of coins and cheers of children.
“Luca,” Michele said quietly, shielding his eyes from the sun, “Go and see who it is.”
Luca, the youngest, shot Michele a bemused look. His mouth drawing into a taunt line as he switched his gaze between his two brothers.
“Am I a dog?”
“You bark like one. Go.” Michele said again, slapping him over the back of the head as he turned back to Niccolo.
Niccolo’s snorts of laughter echoed off the walls, his nostrils quivering as their youngest brother, with his pride severely wounded, limped off into the fray of excitement. The sun darted off of his blue doublet and the light brown of his hair, shot with gold he had inherited from their mother. He was craning his neck, pushing gently past bystanders as the figure continued to move closer and closer.
“Venezia!” Cried a single voice, further in the distance.
“Venezia!” Luca echoed to his brothers, shouting past the hand cupped to the side of his mouth.
”Un Veneziano?” Niccolo spluttered, his mouth gaping. “Here?” He signalled back, his arm flailing wildly as he pointed to the floor to reiterate his question.
Luca nodded, grinning like a fool, as he moved his tongue into the side of his cheek and began to make one of the most vulgar motions either of his brothers have ever seen. Niccolo rolled his eyes as Michele snorted. It went without saying that a Venetian’s wealth would make anyone’s eyes water, but the ferocity of the action Luca was performing indicated something even beyond that.
Before Michele could tell Luca to climb further, another cheer had erupted from the children. A now visible spray of gold flew up into the air, glittering fiercely in the early morning sun before it hit the ground with a collective clatter against the cobble stones. As the crowd ducked to scavenge them, the man responsible for the shower of florins came into view.
On the back of a richly decorated brown horse, sat a young noble in even richer decoration. By Michele’s guess his doublet alone was worth more than his father’s entire business. It was the richest purple any of the brothers had ever seen, the expense of it was making Niccolo’s eyes visibly sting. A mane of hair of such a rich brown it almost verged on black was tied back in a poor attempt to control it. The cape thrown over his right shoulder moved slightly as his horse pushed forward, the winged lion of Venice emblazoned on the silk.
Michele clicked his tongue in disapproval, pointing to Niccolo as he cursed under his breath.
“Would you look at that. I can’t count on my fingers how many times he has broken the sumptuary laws. Look at him. Peacock.”
Niccolo smiled back, patting his younger brother on the shoulder. “Jealousy does not suit you well, fratello. You are too quick to judge, as usual. You know nothing of him.”
“I know enough by that smug expression.”