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The Path To Paradise

Chapter Text

Where other men follow blindly the truth, remember...

Nothing is True

Where other men are limited by morality or law, remember….

Everything is Permitted.

We work in the dark to serve the light. We are the Assassins.

 

The crowd of people in the large room broke into wide smiles and cheers as the woman in the middle rose to her feet and walked towards the brazier in the centre of the room.

Lyra knelt before the Mentor, flashing an impish grin, fighting the urge to fiddle with the crystal on her necklace.

“Lyra, we here have dedicated our lives to fighting and protecting the freedom of humanity. It is a difficult life we lead and only the strong may survive it. You have been my greatest and most dedicated apprentice. Now, I offer you a choice - to join the Brotherhood.”

He held out his hand to her, expectant - the entire room filled with a pregnant silence.

She reached up and took his hand, her smile widening and reaching her eyes. The Mentor held it in place as he burned her finger, the crest of the Assassin Brotherhood forever marked on her skin. She let out a brief gasp at the pain, her back still ramrod straight and her chin still held up, her pride held firm.

In unison, those around her began to chant:

Where men hold power over others, we remind them that they are merely men.

Where women are treated as things, we show them that we are equals.

Where people are owned, we reveal to them the freedom of choice.

Where justice is ignored, we fight for what is right.

Where ignorance is prevalent, we imbue knowledge.

We are assassins.

 

Lyra hissed once more as her hand was plunged into a waiting bowl of water and the entire room seemed to let out a collective exhale.

The Mentor gave her a brief and bright smile that did not quite reach his eyes, jerking his head towards the ceiling as she rose to her feet.

--

Lyra stood on the roof, inhaling the warm fresh air above Toledo as she tilted her face towards the sun, calling out, “You know I can hear you, right, Galen?”

A man’s brief chuckle rang out as he crossed the roof towards her. “One day, I’ll be able to sneak up on you.”

A wry smile in response. “And yet, today is not that day.”

Galen stood in front of her, taking her calloused and burned left hand gently in his own soft hands, pressing his lips to the crest branded into her finger, while Lyra’s hand gently brushed against her stomach.

“It suits you, my dear.” A softer whisper in her ear. “But not quite as much as my ring, no?”

The distant sounds of footsteps making their way up the roof.

She leaned in and whispered, as the footsteps drew nearer. “Not quite as much as your necklace, love. Wait for me down below?”

He smiled and gave her a quick peck as the Mentor came up to her and smiled. “Are you ready, Lyra?”

“Welcome to the Brotherhood.”

A foot on the precipice of the roof.

Arms outstretched.

A body throwing themselves into the air.

The splash of water below.

The cry of an eagle circling above.

----

 

Ten years later.

They came on a rainy day, a great troop of forces in their heavy armour making their way up the mountain, the eagles that usually circled the great citadel at Monteriggioni all silent for once.

Jyn came sprinting towards Galen in their garden, her hair mussed and damp from the rain and her boots still muddy from the fields outside.

“Mama, Papa! Someone’s here!”

Lyra started shouting from inside the house as Galen gently pushed her towards her mother, his face pinched and white with fear.

“We know, Jyn, get your things and hide. Don’t move until we come for you, yes?”

Galen squared his shoulders as Lyra stared after Jyn. She turned to him, her eyes as hard and as deadly as those of the eagles above.

“Can I trust you to do what you must, Galen?”

His lips were now a pinched white line as the rain ran over his face, before he turned and went into the house after Jyn. He found her in the main room, clutching her small toy knight close to her chest, a toy which he had made for her himself in happier times. She turned her face upwards, her eyes full of love and admiration for him.

“Papa! What’s going on? Are we going to be alright?”

He knelt on the ground, her face mere inches from his.

“Jyn, whatever your mother and I do, whatever it is, we do it to protect you. Say that you understand.”

“I understand, papa.” A child’s voice, saying a childish sentiment. He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment.

Lyra’s voice called from outside.

“Galen!”

He squared his shoulders and gently pushed Jyn in the direction of the cellar.

“Go! We’ll come for you, piccina!”

--

Jyn crouched on the roof, mute with fear, waiting to see what would happen.

Her hand went to her throat where her mother’s necklace now rested, an unfamiliar weight on her neck. She had found her mother in the cellar, crouching by a strange chest, pulling a set of robes and knives from it.

Her mother’s eyes grew wide and she paused in her strangely fluid actions, a bracer now resting on her wrist. Her hand went up to her throat and she untied her necklace and put it around Jyn’s neck, the pendant resting heavily on her chest.

“Mama, what’s this?”

Her mother cut her off.

“That’s not important. Listen to me! Jyn, Uncle Saw is going to come for you. When he does, I want you to tell him this, piccina. I lived how I died - by the creed. He’ll understand. Now go!”

Her father’s voice echoed from underneath them and Jyn pressed her face closer to the hole in the wall.

“I can’t give you what you want, Krennic. My memory has been fading so much lately - ever since what happened in Madrid.”

A sardonic laugh from an unfamiliar voice.

“Galen, you’re a brilliant scholar, but a terrible liar. Give me the map and I’ll leave you be to your - farming, Galen, really? You can be the king of sheep shit and stones all you want. All I ask is the map.”

“No!” Jyn’s head lifted for a moment and her hands started shaking. Why was her mother there? She was supposed to be sending a messenger to Uncle Saw!

Jyn pressed her face closer to the hole in the wall - there was her mother, holding her hand out in a strange gesture, standing between her father and an unfamiliar man, dressed all in white, with a large red cross on his chest.

“I won’t let you!”

The man in white laughed. “Oh, Lyra, as meddlesome as ever”

Her mother stood firm. “You’re not going to take him.”

“You think that one woman with a knife can fight off an entire squadron of mercenaries. Good god, you HAVE been driven mad by this place.”

Her mother squared her shoulders and pulled something from her belt. Her father’s face blanched further.

“I’m so sorry, Galen.”

A small blade suddenly appeared in his chest and he looked down at it in faint surprise before crumpling to the ground.

The man in white lifted his hand and her mother’s chest was turned into a red mess by the crossbows of the mercenaries around them.

“Inside the house! Find me anything that’s connected to the map!”

Jyn came to her senses and her feet as she heard the door crashing open, grabbing her bag and running across the rooftops the way that her mother had told her never to.

But her mother wasn’t here anymore to tell her it.

Above her head, the eagles began to cry, as she came to a stop beneath the greatest of the towers and sat, weeping, and waiting for Saw to come and take her away from this place.

Chapter Text

There was smoke on the horizon, a grey dragon draping itself on the sky above Toledo.

Jeron pulled up his horse.

A normally sardonic voice piped up next to him, tinged with fear. Kay. But not Kay as Jeron had ever heard him before. “Jeron, you should know that there is a strong chance that the fire is coming from the Sanctuary.”

Oh god. What was going on?

He spurred his horse downwards, racing into the city proper, dust flying in his wake. Distantly, he could hear Kay swearing and following along, both trying desperately to find out what was going on.

 

--

 

Kay had been right and Jeron had never wanted him to be less correct in his life - the old and abandoned synagogue that hid the sanctuary was burning, along with the buildings on either side.

Everywhere he looked, he could see people running with buckets of water to throw on the blaze and hooks to pull the buildings down in a vain attempt to put out the fire. And - oh god, were they pulling out bodies.

Was that Rodma being dragged out of there, her robes stained brown with - blood?

His mind was blank with shock - where was the Mentor?

Why had they been attacked?

Were his friends still in the building?

He made to dive back into the burning synagogue when he felt a strong arm pull him backwards.

An instinctive punch backward. A brief struggle in response before his mind returned and he looked back at his supposed attacker.

Kay ?

He could hear Kay whispering in his ear. “Jeron, don’t be stupid. Think about it. What good would you dying bring to the brotherhood? What could the Mentor have been working on that would have gotten the attention of the Order?”

Oh gods. They were hunting them. The Seals.

He turned back to Kay, his face back in its impassive mask. “We need to get to Italy. I need to find Galen Erso."

 

---

 

Jyn rapped her knuckles on the door to the office. “Hey Steela, are you free? I have to talk with you about something.”

She leant in closer to the door when she heard a raised voice and the sound of something shattering on the floor. Jyn almost jumped out of her skin when the door slammed open and she ducked out of the way, Saw turning back to Steela as he did.

“What’s wrong with you? You want her to know nothing of her heritage?”

He pointed a dark finger in her face before whirling back towards Steela.

“Her mother died for it and you want to shield her from it! From us?” He stared straight down at Jyn, his imposing height looming over her. “What do you know of the Creed, Jyn?”

Jyn tried to stammer a reply, when Steela coolly raised her hand. “Keep your voice down, brother dearest, or we’ll all be in the Castel tomorrow. You know my rules about her name.”

Saw tramped back into the office, followed moments later by Jyn, who entered only when Steela waved her in.

“I made my decision ten years ago, brother. Either accept it and stay, or fight the inevitable and continue your futile little adventures in the Romagna. Get out and make your decision before I make it for you.”

At that, Saw stormed out of the room, his face a barely disguised mask of rage. Steela sank heavily into her chair.

“You had something for me, Claudia?”

Oh! The ledgers that she was still holding. Jyn had forgotten all about it with the tumult she had just seen. She handed them over, mutely.

She found her voice. “Steela, what was all that about, with my heritage ?”

In her mind’s eye, she could still see the great citadel in the midst of a storm and a child’s pain.

Steela waved her hand dismissively, her rings catching the light and banishing any ghosts with their dazzling reflections. “It’s not important. Now, you wanted to talk to me about some of the girls?”

Oh yes, that. Jyn flipped open the pages and the world returned back to normal around them.

But what could be so special about a bookbinder’s daughter from Toscana?

 

--

 

Saw’s words echoed in her mind the next few weeks, to the point that Steela, with uncharacteristic snappiness, told her to get her head out of the clouds and back into the brothel she was supposed to help run.

She leaned back on her seat in the courtyard, Roma’s famous summer heat having lessened to a bearable enough degree that she was reasonably comfortable in the shade outside. A white shadow flickered on the roof above and Jyn cocked her head. Why would someone be on the roofs?

Jyn blinked, her eyes briefly turning gold and what Saw had called her eagle looked above at the roof, to see nothing at all.

She shook her head, trying to clear the cobwebs from her mind. Too many distractions.

Saw’s voice whispered to her: “ Distraction is death.

The tap of her knuckles on the table.

Steela would be in Firenze for the next week - she’d have a clear shot then of finding out exactly what Steela didn’t want her to find.

 

--

 

It had taken a mountain of planning and a lot of patience to wait until Steela was gone and Jyn was certain that none of the girls could interrupt her.

A quick flick of her wrist with the keys that Jyn had stolen earlier and the door to Steela’s office fell open before her. Now, what could Steela be hiding about her?

And where would she hide it?

Her eyes fell on the small bureau that Steela had forbidden her to ever open. Damn. Now, this, she had no keys for. Her hand fell to the small pouch of lockpicks at her waist.

No time like the present apparently.

She went back to the door, closing it and locking it from the inside - it would be in poor form to be interrupted by a client or one of the girls.

Her attention went back to the bureau again, and she fed the pins in, listening for that tiny click - and yes! There it was! She pulled open the first of the drawers. Nothing except papers in there - Jyn quickly flipped through them to see if there was anything of note.

Merda . Nothing at all.

Open the next drawer.

Another pile of papers.

Now the last one. Jyn sent up a silent prayer that this one would be of import.

Absolutely nothing at all in this one.

Nothing except a few dust motes.

Cazzo . She knew that Steela had been hiding something from her - but there had to at least be a physical suggestion of it.

Wait.

The drawer seemed to be a mite shallower than the others that Jyn had already opened. Could there be a false bottom to it?

She ran her nails around the edges - yes! There it was. She pulled it out and - good god almighty .

Her mother’s necklace.

She picked it up with all the gentleness her shocked self could muster up and sat heavily on the ground.

Her mother’s necklace.

The memories she’d tried to push back for so long rushed back over her.

She hadn’t seen it since Steela had taken it from her when she’d been brought to Roma and she’d been rechristened - her name and all memories of her former life pushed deep inside of her, a little cave in her mind that she had forgotten existed until now.

I lived how I died - by the creed.

She put it gently around her neck - a little reminder of Jyn Erso for Claudia Auditore.

Time to make herself scarce. Jyn picked up the false panel that had covered the extra compartment and made to put it back in when she felt something sharp against her finger. What was Steela even hiding in here?

She picked it up - a bracer and a broken blade, still brown with dried blood. Wait. She knew this as well.

Oh God - it was her mother’s. Which meant that the blood was-

Merda - she was holding a knife still stained with her father’s blood.

No. She couldn’t do this anymore.

She stuffed both the bracer and the blade back into the drawer, not caring about how it fit in anymore.

False bottom back in place.

Drawers all closed and locked.

Door opened and closed and relocked.

She couldn’t take this anymore. She needed quiet and light and airiness. She needed to get out. To the rooftop .

Be strong, Claudia. Don’t be stupid. Distraction is death.

She was walking out towards the courtyard when - who was grabbing her? She tried to turn and fight back, her fists balled up and ready to fight when a voice hissed in her ear.

“How much for a ride, little one?”

Jyn recoiled instantaneously from the smell of his breath and from his words. No. She wouldn’t let this slide.

She closed her eyes as she felt the man breathe into her ear and begin to move backwards with her.

Slam her foot into his.

Link her hands together and jam her elbow up into his nose.

Turn and move backwards, as fluidly as Steela had taught her.

Grab the knife that she had tucked into her bodice.

Throw it at his chest - always aim for the centre of someone’s mass, Saw had said.

And then she turned and ran into the courtyard, reaching the hidden staircase while hearing his howls of pain in the background. It was only once she was on the roof that she managed to reach her hidden stash of boy’s clothing and that she could finally breathe.

She needed to run.

 

--

 

It was three days before Steela got back and four until she found out that Jyn had broken into her office. If she was honest, Jyn was surprised that it had taken a full day for her to realise it, but she suspected that stabbing a patron of the brothel had caused more problems than Steela needed.

After all, she had seemed like she was in a bad mood when she’d returned from Florence. No surprise - if Il Magnifico was dead, then all of Italy would be cast into complete chaos. Hopefully the ailing Pope would be able to stop the families of Roma from squabbling and turning the city into a bloodbath again. But why a brothel owner, even one who catered primarily to the denizens of the Vatican, would need to keep a finger on the pulse of Italian politics had always bedevilled Jyn.

But that was beside the point when Steela stormed into Jyn’s small quarters, hands on hips and a face like thunder.

“Claudia Auditore, what on earth were you thinking? I banned you from my office for your own safety and you insist on not only breaking into my bureau, but also on wearing that necklace you found? Do you even know how much danger you are in now?”

What? How could a necklace even put someone into danger? It was just a plain compass arrow with a crystal set into the centre.

Her hand quietly fluttered up to her necklace before it was caught by Steela, who sank down onto the narrow bed next to her.

“I worry so much for you, Claudia. I never had children of my own, but you are my daughter and I sought only to protect you.”

What? Jyn’s brow furrowed. She opened her mouth to ask, but Steela gently cut her off.

“This was for your own protection. Now give me the necklace and I will ignore your disobedience.” She was sterner than Jyn had ever heard before in her life.

Jyn jumped up and pointed a finger in Steela’s face. “ Claudia? Why do you insist on that name? My name is Jyn! Jyn Erso! And that necklace was once my mother’s before it was mine!”

Steela shot her a dagger-sharp glare. “Claudia. You will sit down. I assure you, everything I do and have done has been to protect you.” She held out her hand again, in the voice of someone not used to being disagreed with. “Now give me the necklace.”

She was filled with an incandescent rage and let the devil in her soul loose. “To protect me? The last time someone said that to me was before he was killed by my own mother. And now you say that you hid who I was from me to protect me?”

Steela sank onto the bed, the rage flowing out of her. She patted the bed next to her and Jyn sat gingerly down, ready to run at a moment’s notice.  

“Your mother was like a sister to me - I swore that I would protect her and her child no matter what, and I have. Jyn, your mother served alongside me in the Assassin Brotherhood."

My mother? An assassin - does that mean that she killed my father and was killed in turn as merely a common cutthroat -

She blinked and suddenly realised that she had been speaking her thoughts aloud.

“Not common cutthroats, Jyn. The Brotherhood of Assassins. We are sworn to defend freedom at all costs from those that would seek to take the freedom of others from them. Our greatest enemies call themselves the Templar Order and seek to rule over all others. Your mother was one of our greatest assassins until she left to have you, my child. She never wanted you to live like us, Claudia - it’s such a lonely life.”

The man in white - the one with the cross. Was he one of the Templars? The reason that her family had been torn apart?

She paused a little, closing her eyes and pursing her lips, as if caught in an old memory.

“That necklace you wear is the symbol of the Brotherhood. And with our enemies ascendant, I fear so much for you wearing that on the streets of Roma. All I have ever tried to do is to keep you safe.”

That word again. Safe. It galled Jyn so much. What safety had ever been provided to her?

She jumped to her feet and tore her hand from Steela’s grasp, ignoring how her face fell when she did so.

“You sought to protect me by stripping me of everything! My name, my mother’s last gift to me - everything! Was that why you banned Saw from Roma? Because he wanted to teach me about my family?”

Her voice grew in volume steadily before Steela rose and stood opposite her.

“Keep your voice down, Jyn, or we will all be on the rack tomorrow. Between this and the incident with the patron the other day, I’m not sure what to do with you anymore.”

Truly? Steela was going to ream her out for protecting herself ? Who had been the person to teach her how to hide knives in her bodice to begin with?

She opened her mouth to argue again, but Steela cut her off, pulling a small package out of her pocket and handing it to her.

“I never wanted you to have this, Jyn - but I think Saw was right. I think you’re ready to join the Brotherhood.”

Steela waved her hand at the package that Jyn now held.  

“Why don’t you open that, piccina?”

One fold of fabric.

Another.

Oh .

The broken bracer that Jyn had found in Steela’s office.

“That was once your mother’s hidden blade. This is the sacred weapon of the Assassin Brotherhood. Protect it with your life.”

Jyn finally found her voice. “But it’s broken.”

Steela waved a dismissive hand. “If you are to truly join the Brotherhood, you deserve to wield it. And what is broken may always be fixed. It’s rarely ever permanent, Jyn.”

She turned and headed back to the door. “Tomorrow, Jyn. On the rooftop at dawn. And wear those boys’ clothes that you think I don’t know about. We’ll begin your training then. And one more thing. The other novices will ask you for your name and you will tell them that your name is Claudia Auditore. Are we clear?”

Jyn managed a mute nod in reply and Steela turned and left through the door.

She stared at the ceiling of her room heavily, barely managing to snuff out the tapers before she lay down and fell into an exhausted and dreamless sleep.

Chapter Text

Jyn had never been so exhausted in her life before. She had thought that she was reasonably healthy and capable of running across the rooftops of Roma, but no, the other novices had put her to shame with it.

She had never realised - after all this time - Steela’s training had all been a starting point for her brotherhood training. The knives that she had been trained to use, the poisons, the freedom that Steela had always granted her against the objections of all of Roma. All of it had been preparing her for this.

At long last after a few months of this, her bones weary and her mind exhausted beyond belief, Steela called her into her office, most likely to tell her off for something or another again. Good God, she was only now just coming to understand how difficult maintaining this double life was.

She came up in front of the office that had started this whole affair to begin with and knocked lightly on the door, fisting her other hand in the folds of her dress.

A quick “Come in!” from inside.

Steela was sitting at the desk, the perfect mask of an Italian matron, never mind that she was neither one of those things.

The broken blade and bracer lay on the table in front of her.

“Claudia. Why don’t you take a seat?”

Jyn sank down gently into the chair, her bruises making every movement painful.

“You wanted to talk with me?”

She flipped the book closed. “How did the assassination of the Senator go, child?”

Jyn shuddered at the memory - the cold room, the courtesan on the ground and the desperate last gasps of the dying man. She closed her eyes and fisted the material of her dress again. Breathe. In and out.

She pulled the single bloodstained feather out of her pocket. “It was done, Steela. Clean and fast and I followed the creed.”

A sympathetic smile in return. “It’s a hard life, child. But don’t forget this - we only kill when necessary to protect others. It should never be a light thing to take a life. But I didn’t call you in here today to talk about that.”

Steela made a quick and graceful movement with her hand, gesturing at the bracer on the table.

“This is yours, now. You are a member of the Brotherhood, you deserve to wield our weapons.”

But why? It was still broken from the last time it was - Jyn cut off that thought before it could grow any further.

“Do you know of someone who can repair it?”

A smirk grew on Steela’s face.

“You know what, Claudia? I think I do.”

And with that, she swept out of the office, skirts swishing in her wake.

Jyn made a face, then realised that Steela clearly intended for her to follow and quickly rushed out the door as well, grabbing the bracer on the way out - into the bright Roman streets.

 

--

 

They made small talk for the rest of the trip until they reached a small studio with a little courtyard adjoining it. Steela was clearly familiar with it, because she bustled straight in, shouting for someone called Bodhi.

Bodhi turned out to be a little mousy man, with a little tuft of hair neatly pulled back into a ponytail, working what looked to be a large panel of wood depicting the Annunciation.

“Hello, Bodhi!”

He clasped his hands together and gave Steela a bright smile, kissing her on both cheeks.

“Madonna Steela! What can I do for you today?”

Steela gave a gentle flourish of her left hand, pulling her long sleeve up slightly and twisting the ring that sat on her fourth finger.

“It’s not what you can do for me, it’s about what you can do for the Brotherhood.”

A slight flicker across Bodhi’s face.

She gave Bodhi a reassuring smile. “It’s nothing too complex, Bodhi.” Steela waved her hand at Jyn. “This is my apprentice, Claudia. Why don’t you show him the bracer, dear?”

Jyn walked over to a table covered in a pile of parchment and clutter - what was the writing on them in any case? She gently put the bracer and the broken blade down on the table.

Steela kept talking as she handed him a sheet of paper. “We need this to be fixed, Bodhi. Preferably as discreetly as possible.”

Bodhi bowed slightly to Steela. “It would be my honour, madonna.”

“Good. I’ve leave you two to it, yes? There’s a little problem in Trastavere that I wanted to look into before I get back to the brothel - Claudia, when you’re done, why don’t you meet me back there?”

And before either of them knew it, Steela had left the studio just as quickly as she had entered it. Jyn and Bodhi stood silently in her wake, Bodhi giving her a slightly exasperated smile that suggested that this wasn’t the first time that Steela had done something like this.  

Bodhi’s fingers twitched slightly before he rushed into action, clearing some of his papers off a little stool and brushing it off.

“Why don’t you sit down?” he said.

Jyn waved it off, gently, but he kept giving her a slightly desperate look. She sat down quietly on the stool, resisting the urge to look at whatever papers he’d brushed off them - some of those drawing were incredible - were those birds’ wings?

In the meantime, Bodhi had picked up her bracer and was turning it over in his hands. “This is a fantastic piece of weaponry design - the blade deploying mechanism is incredibly ingenious,” he was muttering to himself.

She settled into the stool, looking over at the annunciation - the shadows on the wings of the angel were utterly incredible - almost as realistic as the birds that were circling above. Steela had beaten into her an appreciation for the finer aspects of art and music and Jyn was absolutely certain that she was sitting in the presence of a master, who was happily poking some sort of mechanism in the blade with - was that a really long needle? What?

There was a loud and sudden “click” that came from the blade and Bodhi happily turned back to her, beaming and waved her over to his side.

“We’re almost done! There’s just one thing left to do! It’s all fixed now, but all I have to do is cut off your ring finger!”

She nearly fell over. What?

“I’m sorry,” he said in a chirpy voice that promised the exact opposite. He held a butcher knife aloft. “But the cipher that Madonna Steela left me said very clearly that it had to be done. The blade is designed to ensure the commitment of the wearer.”

Jyn closed her eyes. How committed was she to the Brotherhood and to the Creed?

In her mind’s eye, she saw her mother falling in a hail of crossbow bolts and her father falling dead to the exact blade that Jyn would wield.

She nodded, closing her eyes. “Bene. Make it fast, at least.”

Bodhi hefted the knife higher in his hand and Jyn braced for an impact - but instead Bodhi just laughed brightly and threw the knife onto the table.

“Sorry, Claudia! Just having a little bit of fun! The page said that the blade had once been made to be used without the ring finger, but yours has been modified. Quite a genius whoever made it!”

A quick jerk of her head in response. She’d already had too much to deal with today - she instead focused on strapping the bracer to her arm underneath the wide sleeves of her dress.

Bodhi handed the page back to her. “Why don’t you give that back to madonna Steela?”, to which she started folding the page back and tucking it into her pocket.

Suddenly, she felt Bodhi’s hand lift her face up and she resisted the urge to stab him with the bracer he’d just repaired for her. She heard him muttering, “What a beautiful face! The cheekbones, the lines.” He must have realised how awkward this whole situation was because he quickly drew back and pulled his hand away.

“I’m sorry, miss Claudia! I just got a little carried away - but you have the most incredible planes on your face - I’d be honoured to sketch it, if you don’t mind sitting down a little more.”

What on earth was happening?

She sat mutely back down on the stool, smiling slightly, and allowed Bodhi to grab a piece of parchment from his mess and a charcoal pencil as he quickly moved around her, sketching as he went.

“Beautiful!” He shoved the sketch under her nose and she recoiled slightly. Her slight smile had turned into a mysterious smirk under his charcoal pencil and her stiff posture from the bruises had turned into a poised and delicate look.

She looked out into the courtyard and saw the sun setting over the hills of Roma. Merda . She jumped out of her seat, quickly saying her farewells to Bodhi and promising to meet him at his studio for another sitting soon.

 

--

 

She’d quickly rushed through the Roman streets back to the Ponte Sant’Angelo and the Rosa in Fiore that lay near it. A flutter and mess of fabric rushed quickly up to Steela’s office upstairs and rushed in without even announcing herself. It was only once she’d seated herself in her favoured armchair that Steela looked up from the second set of secret Brotherhood ledgers and let out a brilliant and musical laugh.

“Did Bodhi insist on sketching you?”

Jyn rolled her eyes slightly and nodded. She pulled her sleeve up to show Steela the repaired blade, to which she gave an approving nod.

“It suits you. I’ve got one more thing, for you, Claudia, if you can bear to follow me one more time today.”

Steela quickly packed up the ledgers and placed them back in their place beneath the loose floorboard, rolling the rug back out over it.

Back out the door into the courtyard and - was that a hidden door that Jyn had never noticed before? Steela’s secrets evidently had secrets.

She suddenly found herself in a darkened room with a series of portraits on the walls, some of which had large red crosses painted over them. And in the middle, laying on a table, was a set of pure white robes with a hood and a large red sash.

Steela nodded at the walls after pulling the door completely shut. “Those, my dear, are the known enemies of the Brotherhood.”

Jyn furrowed her brow. “These are the Templars?”

A sharp nod in reply. “We do not know yet who leads them, but the girls in the brothel have been trying to get the names of others connected to them - we’re trying to build a larger map of who they are and what they want before we can strike.”

Steela made a little moue of anger - probably thinking about Saw rampaging around - was it in the Romagna still?

She shook her head a little. “In any case, Jyn, you’ve been making remarkable progress in your training, but it’s time to branch out a little beyond just Roma.”

“Maestra?” Jyn said, slightly confused.

A gesture over at the robes on the table. “Those are for you. One of the thieves heard a rumour that the Templars are amassing in Venice. I’m sending you there. Find out what they want and kill them all.”

Jyn shrugged on the robes and pulled herself tall. She received an approving nod in response. Steela smiled and said, “I knew they’d fit. They used to be mine, you know - I’m not much one for the field nowadays.”

She reached under the table to hand her a mask, before gently pulling the lapels of the coat into place on her shoulders. “Take care, Jyn. It’s a lonely life we lead, but it doesn’t mean that it can’t be meaningful.”

Chapter Text

Jyn couldn’t deny the beauty of the city on the lagoon, but she would definitely have appreciated it a lot better had it been a lot less crowded and if it had been far easier to get passage in. As it was, she’d barely been able to get her trunks through the crush up the the city’s resident Brotherhood base of operations.

A quick greeting and now she was racing over the rooftops over to La Arsenale to meet with the members of the Thieves’ Guild who had promised her a lead on what the Templars had been planning. The smell of fish and gunpowder told her that she was in the right place and she almost winced at the smell. But then again, the canals of Venice did not, in fact, smell much better, so perhaps people here just became attuned to it over time.

But the bread! Apparently unsalted bread was a delicacy that could only be found on the mainland! Why?

Oh well, hopefully the Venetian thieves were as good as the ones in Roma at finding out what the Templars were up to here. Where were they - oh! Were those the ones?

She jumped lightly onto the little dock where they were sitting - a blind man holding his cane and a man who looked like he might be an actual mercenary, minus his broadsword. But how could a blind man be a thief?

No great matter, and it didn’t matter once the blind man called out to her. “Hey you! Over there! In the hood! Would you like to trade your necklace for a glimpse into your future?”

Her hand flew up to where her necklace was safely nestled under the heavy layers of her clothes.

“How did you even know I was wearing a necklace?”

The big burly man huffed a quick laugh. “He’s an old fool with far too many spies on these streets for everyone’s damned good.”

In reply, the blind man struck backwards lightly with his cane across the burly man’s shins. “Don’t listen to him. My name is Chirrut Imwe and his is Baze Malbus. You must be Steela’s new apprentice. We’d heard rumours that Roma’s Brotherhood was recruiting again.”

She gave a polite nod in reply. After all, it was difficult to do an aristocratic curtsey when you were armed to the teeth. “My name is Claudia Auditore. The Brotherhood in Venezia said that you had some information for me on the Order’s movements here?”

Chirrut threw his head back and laughed, although Jyn didn’t entirely see what was so funny about the situation. “Always rushing straight into things with nary a second look.” He turned to Baze, still standing over him with his arms crossed. “Don’t you remember when we were still young and could do things like that?”

A grumble from Baze. “So what did you call attacking the guards the other day?”

“Practice. Anyway, this young assassin requires our aid!” He turned back to her. “I heard a rumour that the Templars will be meeting at the Doge’s palace in three nights for a party to celebrate Carnivale.”

Jyn nodded, taking in the information. “Do you know what they were meeting about?”

“Not a whisper of information.  That’ll be up to you to decide. Just a warning, though. You will need an invitation to be able to get through the door.”

She rapped her fingers lightly on her thigh. Yet another thing to worry about. Thank God, though, that Steela had forced her to pack a court dress and mask. She closed her eyes for a moment. “Was there anything else that you heard?”

Chirrut laughed again. “Absolutely nothing! But don’t worry, my dear. I’m sure we’ll meet again very soon.”

What the hell did that mean?

She turned back and started running all the way back to the bureau.

 

--

 

She had barely reached the bureau when a girl came racing in through the door, her skirts in tatters and her corset missing - she stood there shivering and covering her breasts before Jyn came storming down the stairs and wrapped her cape around her.

Jyn led the shaking girl into a private room, as Paola came storming in, carrying a spare dress and adjusting her headdress - she’d clearly been in the middle of something when the chaos had started.

Through white lips, the girl began to speak, shaking like a leaf the whole while. “Madonna - the Doge - a man in white with a red cape came for him and - he hurt Lucia.”

She pursed her lips. “Did you notice anything about what the man in white was wearing - any particular symbols he was carrying?”

The girl started shaking even more and managed to whisper. “Madonna, his ring - it had a red cross on it. That’s all I remember!”

A red cross?

A Templar?

He was meeting with Templars? How much influence did they have in this city?

But the current Doge had always been a staunch ally of the Assassins until this point - what could have changed? Jyn tensed all her muscles, ready to hunt him down and shake him for answers.

From under her eyelashes, Paola shot her a look of pure steel and Jyn forced herself to stay still and not jump immediately into action.

Paola ran a gentle hand down the girl’s (that was her name! Teodora) shoulder. Her voice was a comforting whisper. “Do you know where the Doge will be now?"

Teodora looked at Jyn where she sat in her white robes, her hood drawn over her face. “He’ll be at the Palace. He was still there with Lucia when I left - oh! Maestra! He was hurting her, what if she’s dead - I ran -”

Quietly, the girl was given a goblet to drink by Paola - how had Jyn not noticed that she’d brought it in, and she swiftly fell onto the bed. Opium? Anything to give that poor girl a better sleep.

Jyn was quickly ushered out of the door and into Paola’s office, where she turned to face Jyn, her face a carefully shuttered mask.

“Claudia. Go find the Doge. Find out what the man in white told him and then kill him. I can ensure that the next Doge will grant us support. Go!” She nearly bodily shoved Jyn out the nearest window, with Jyn crouching on the ledge as Paola gave her a nod of approval.

Time to find the Doge.

 

--

 

The Doge’s palace was far emptier than it had any right to be, of anyone except guards, especially just before the beginning of Carnivale. Jyn climbed silently down to the third level. She let her Eagle take flight, peering through the walls and doors as if they were nothing.

There! The man sitting in the reception room of the State Apartments.

Jyn pressed herself into a narrow alcove as a pair of guards passed by on the loggia, hoping that her hood would be enough to cover her face.

She wouldn’t be able to the Doge this way. Not through the army of guards that was patrolling.

She chewed on her lip a little. The great balcony on the facade. If she climbed back up onto the roof and down the facade.

That could work.

Jump up and grab a crenellation, just as a guard passed by directly under her feet.

Scrabble up the wall and pray that no one caught her.

She ran quickly over to the roof, looking down at the balcony, jumping down and quickly rolling to disperse the force.

There he was! He stood completely still in the middle of the room, just staring at her as she barreled through the doors and unsheathed her Hidden Blade.

Suddenly, he must have realised the danger he was in, as began to shift to her left, almost as though he were trying to take cover. Impossible, in a room with this many windows.

“Oh, Assassin of many! Take pity! Spare me! I will give you whatever you wish - name your price! -” He started to splutter as Jyn advanced on him.

But she had a job to do. “What did the Order want with you?”

He continued to splutter, crawling backwards where he had fallen. “They were looking for the map?”

Her brow furrowed. “What map? Why would they want a map?”

He opened and closed his mouth, no sounds coming out, like a fish gasping for air on dry land. Finally, he was able to make a single sound.

“Erso! -”

What?

A series of explosions erupted from outside the window and Jyn whirled her head back towards the window to see the brilliant lights of fireworks over the city.

The glass broke in front of her, shattering.

A shard went flying through the air, whispering past her cheek.

Her head went wheeling about and she felt a warm wetness on her cheek.

Behind her the Doge gasped and she heard a wet splat. The Doge looked down at his chest where an arrow now rested, red spreading out over his richly embroidered clothes.

She caught him as he fell, lowering him to the ground, catching his last words. “No… It’s too soon… I’m not ready.”

Jyn sheathed her hidden blade. “We so very rarely are. Requiescat in pace.

A flicker on the building opposite caught her eye - a man there made a quick salute to her and then vanished into the shadows.

She blinked, clearing her eyes, trying to process what had just happened.

A guard suddenly broke down the door and started shouting.

“Assassino! Get them!”

“Venezia is dead! Find the assassin!”

Merda. Jyn made a series of quick judgements and decided that the quickest route would be down. She sprinted towards the window, raising her hand over her face.

She spread her arms out wide.

Have faith, little one.

And then she was falling - thump!

She landed in a soft bale of hay. Look up towards where the guards were clustered around the window, pointing towards her.

Clamber awkwardly out of the hay bale and start running, shoving her way through the crowd as she did so.

 

--

 

Jyn was slightly impressed at how quickly the people of Venezia were able to recover from a loss. Within a handful of days, a new Doge had been elected, installed and the celebrations of Carnivale were able to continue apace.

Which meant that Jyn still needed to get dressed for a party.

Fottiti , Paola! Does the corset need to be quite so tight?” Jyn huffed out as the air was knocked out of her again. Not even fight training with Bartolomeo had been quite so awful as this.

Paola let out a grunt from behind her and shoved a foot into her back to pull it tighter. “I’m making you beautiful, Jyn. Stop complaining.”

Her grumbling continued as she helped Jyn into the heavy bodice. “A white dress with a red sash - I have no idea what Steela was thinking  - did she want you to be killed?”

The petticoats were put into place and her sleeves were laced on before Paola asked Jyn to make a slow circle, patting and tugging her pockets and skirts into place.

She made a little face. “White is a rather uncommon colour for Carnivale, but you’re still young - I think you’ll be able to get away with it.”

Young?

The last touch, a mask that covered her eyes and tied into place with a ribbon. Hopefully no one would be able to put two and two together and realise that she had been the last person to see the previous Doge before his death.

Paola quickly moved out of the room, back downstairs to administer her bureau and her brothel.

Who would want him dead?

She shook her head and focused on more pressing issues. Like how to make her way over to the Palace and find a suitable person to steal an invitation from.

Jyn looked down at the heavy court gown. Dammit. No running for her in this outfit.

She shouted downstairs for Paola.

“Paola! You need to send for a gondola for me!”

 

--

 

Venezia was complete and utter chaos. In less than a week, it had become a giant city-wide flurry of masks and capes and gowns and shouting.

Jyn sat at the prow of her gondola, watching as it cut smoothly through the water. Venezia might be a strange and almost alien place, the city on the water, but a city still the same. And Jyn had always been good at watching.

From next to her, a small scuffle broke out as a young masked girl with strangely violet eyes and a mess of hair playfully shoved another masked figure, this one a dark haired man, Luciano, she heard him being called. She looked over at them - the girl was yelling something about how she was a better gondolier than him. The little disagreement was broken up by an older aquiline man in black velvet, who placed a hand on the girl’s shoulder.

A pang of loss in Jyn’s heart.

Whatever I do, I do to protect you.

No. Wrenching herself back to the present, she cast her eyes over at the richly decorated palazzi that lined the banks of Il Canal Grande and the young men in masks climbing up them to where beautifully dressed women, each with gowns and masks more impressive than the one before, stood. Jyn turned over to the gondolier.

“Marco, may I ask what those young men are doing?” she said, pointing over at the nearby piazza filled with young men and women.

The gondolier looked over at where she was pointing and laughed. “Oh, Madonna Claudia! It’s a strange custom for us at Carnivale only! Should a young man wish to confess his love to a woman during the festival, he must climb up to where she stands on the balcony.”

Jyn looked slightly confused and smiled, thinking of at least a few other novices in Roma who would be interested to hear of this custom. Ezio, in fact, would be absolutely thrilled to hear of it, given the stories that she had heard of his wild conquests.

But something wasn’t quite right. “Must the young man in question speak any words, or is it merely the act of climbing up to his lady enough?”

Marco threw his head back and laughed a little more. “Madonna, we in Venezia are a passionate people. Words are not necessary! It is merely the act required, nothing more. And besides, they are all masked, so the women may ignore the men during Lent later.”

Jyn joined in on his infectious laughter and continued to look out at the banks of the Canal at the colourful costumes everywhere.

“Madonna Claudia! The palazzo is coming up on the right!”

The gondola glided gently into the dock and Jyn stood up as the gondolier tied it to the jetty. She handed him a small bag of scudi as she walked over onto solid ground, looking up at the imposing basilica and the great quadriga that stood on its portico, stolen as a treasure of war during the Crusades.

But now was not the time for sightseeing.

Now was the time to find someone to rob.

Jyn looked at the crowd with her eagle, the world suddenly appearing in shades of red and gold. There! The man arguing with the guards at the entrance in a strange headdress that looked like huge floppy ears. “Tell the doge that I need to speak with him personally before the banquet starts!”

She began pushing her way towards the man - she had to catch him while he was still speaking with the guards.

The guard looked like he was on the verge of either rolling his eyes or stabbing him with his pike, “Messer Jar Jar, we are presently unable to let you near the Doge. You must wait for him to appear at the banquet proper.”

Jar Jar was adamant. “I have vital information to the functioning of Venezia to give to the new Doge! I must give it to him in person! You must let me in!”

It was absolutely nothing to gently breeze past him, her skirts gently whispering in her wake, and lift the invitation from his pocket. She gave a little nod to the guards as she walked past over to the other side of the palace where the grandees would undoubtedly be gathering. She closed her eyes and centred herself. She was an assassin with a job to do. Time to do it.

 

--

 

The banquet was almost overwhelming, the music, the conversations, the masks. She wouldn't be able to see anything here.

Up. She needed to get above the fray. Maybe it'd be easier to find the templars then.

A man in a fox mask walked up to her, smirking as he bowed over her hand. Wait - she knew that voice.

“Madonna Claudia, I did tell you that we would meet again soon.”

Chirrut! It was the thief from yesterday.

“What are you doing here?” What could a thief want with a grand party at the Doge’s palace? And where was his mercenary shadow?

She forced herself to give her very best Roman smirk in reply. “And what can I do for you, Messere La Volpe?”

Another smile in return. “I was just going to say, Madonna, that should you wish to hear some absolutely fascinating conversation, that you should retire to the salon near that group of men in red over there.” A quick gesture of his stick towards said group before he disappeared into the crowd.

Why was he so insistent on helping her?

No great matter. She gently pushed her way through the milling crowd over to the aforementioned salon, sinking gratefully into the seat and looking, for all the world knew, extraordinarily interested in the art on the wall. As she did so, she began to hear little scraps of information.

“Il mentore...arriving tonight from Spain.”

“Hidden...head of horse. At the basilica.”

“Meeting - at midnight. He wants to see the proof himself.”

What could possibly be hidden in the head of a horse? And in a church to boot?

She quickly looked studiously away from the group as they turned their heads away, her hand reaching up above her head to ensure that her mask was still firmly pinned in place.

So the Templars were meeting in the Basilica tonight to find some artifact hidden in the head of a horse. And their mentor would be meeting them as well?

In that case, Jyn thought it would be best to head back to the bureau and change into something a little more fitting for that occasion. After all, it had been some time since she had last been in a church.

Chapter Text

Jyn could complain all she wished about the narrow canals of Venezia and the smell of the streets, but the wind off the lagoon rustling over her robes as she ran. She quickly jumped over a narrow little bridge over a canal, such a change from the fetid swamps of her beloved Roma.

There it was! She spied the golden domes of the Basilica in the distance and she crouched on a roof, allowing her Eagle’s Sight to take wing. Dozens of guards on the upper storey of the Basilica and another few on the Portico on the facade itself.

What would Steela do?

A wily little voice in the back of her mind whispered: “Seduction is always about knowing what men want. Find it out and you can use it against them.”

Very well then.

There! They had left the balcony of the South Entrance barely guarded, only two men there to stand watch. Jyn waited patiently until one of the men came to walk under the building she was crouched on before she dived down, stabbing him as she did so. She quickly dragged the body out of sight of the other men and crept out into the nearby shadows.

She could hear the other man calling out for his companion and she gave a low whistle from where she crouched, hidden.

The sound of armour tromping over to her.

She quickly ducked out and stabbed the man from behind before she could shout.

Drag the body over to where the other one lay hidden.

Look up and the imposing building. If she was completely honest though, the size paled in comparison to the grandeur of the buildings in Roma.

But thank God that the Basilica had so many little intricate designs - it would make climbing a little easier.

She flexed her hand a little, popping her blade in and out. A little pang in her heart went out as she thought of the last time its old owner had used it.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Centre herself.

Jyn looked up at the imposing dome of the Basilica and jumped up to the nearest handhold.

A short climb later and she vaulted over the low balcony and silently pushed open the door into the Basilica proper. And then she looked up and had to suppress a gasp.

The entire church was softly lit with a golden glow from the mosaics that covered every surface that she could see, the light rippling off the dappled marble floor. She turned to look back towards the door, to close it and she almost screamed when she saw a face staring straight at her from the wall.

A quick clutch of her chest. She would not allow herself to be one of those fainting girls she had seen everywhere in Roma.

She closed her eyes and looked back at the painted lady, who was staring at her with almost an air of pity. It is just a mosaic. It cannot hurt you.

The door closed behind her silently and she drew her hood over her face. Now she had to find the Templars.

Allow the Eagle to take flight.

There they were. Standing before the Sacramental Altar, almost directly beneath her and talking loud enough that their voices were carried by the huge dome above them, so much so that she could hear them crystal clear.

“- Stole the first seal from the Spanish… Completely obliterated.”

“But what about Erso’s map?”

Jyn stiffened, but forced herself to remain calm and stay crouched behind the low railing.

A dismissive snort.

“Erso burned his map before we could reach it. His whore of a wife killed him before he could tell us about it.”

Another voice piped up, this one laced with authority. “Krennic. Your failure to capture the map all those years ago has brought us to this current venture. You will find Erso’s daughter. As I recall, you also failed to capture her as well.”

A series of spluttering excuses from a man that could only be Krennic.

“Silence!” This was a different voice, also carrying the ring of authority and the will to wield it. “We are here because we received word that one of the Seals was hidden in Venezia. The story went that it was hidden in the head of a horse. Tear the city apart and bring it to me.”

“Thanks to your failures, my son will be coming to Italia to rectify those mistakes and he will bring with him the Seal captured from the Spanish Brotherhood. I daresay that it will encourage you to work more efficiently, will it not?”

Shouts from the men, as they began to call out to guardsmen and lackeys.

Jyn rapped her knuckles against her thigh before she stopped. Such a bad habit. Horses . She had the distinct feeling they weren’t referring to a true horse. But the voices continued from the storey below her.

“Krennic. I want you to go to Firenze and ensure Piero’s loyalty. He will obey our commands. Should we control Firenze, we will be able to cut the Brotherhood off at its source.”

Jyn chanced a look below down at the two men that were still left, one dressed in the brilliantly red robes of a Cardinal, as the other man in white knelt before him to kiss his ring. The Cardinal briefly looked up at the railing behind where she was hidden, but she resisted the urge to move.

Stay strong, Jyn.

A wave of his hand to his guardsmen, who all took their positions around the church as he left.

Oh God! The horses! The great quadriga on the portico of this very Basilica. She needed to reach it before the Templars could find it. But all these guardsmen!

She took a deep breath, allowing her Eagle to take flight. There. The Cardinal had left, the great doors slamming shut behind him, and the silence of the church swiftly became the clinking of weapons on armour.

Jyn still shook slightly from the conversation she’d just overheard. What could her father have been studying that led to his death? And what would they want from her? She knew nothing about what he had been researching!

Her mind went blank.

She needed to stop the Templars before more innocents were hurt.

She unsheathed her sword and drew her hidden blade and began to walk down the narrow walkway.

One guard. Stab through the lung,

Shouts started to erupt through the church.

Jyn continued to walk.

Take another guard through the throat with her hidden blade. A flicker of her sword as another man was cut down from behind.

Draw a dagger and throw it in a single smooth motion towards another.

The whole time, she continued to move down towards the portico.

Church bells above her head started to ring out as the revellers in the square began to shout. Good.

More cover noise for her.

She started to move at a run. Take advantage of whatever is around you. Slide along the ground and tear out tendons as she did so.

Stab upwards into someone’s groin.

Blood everywhere on her robes.

Stab. Run. Slice.

More blood.

Merda! When would this night end?

Suddenly, she found herself standing in front of the great door to the portico, which she gently pushed open and slipped out through.

And almost slipped off the brilliantly polished marble out onto the flagstones of the Piazza below her.

She scrabbled quickly at the neck of one of the horses, quickly resting her head on its cool metal flank for a moment. A moment. That’s all she needed.

Flex her hand briefly and sheath the hidden blade and her sword.

Allow the Eagle to soar.

Where was the Seal?

The brilliant sheen of gold from inside the Fourth Horse’s head. She clutched blindly at the stones of the facade behind her, desperately trying not to slip off the portico.

Wait - what was that? One of the stones just twisted in her hand. Jyn turned back to look at what it was. The stone suddenly detached in her hand and she found a little puzzle box behind where it had once sat.

Oh! This was child’s play - almost exactly like the ones that her father had made for her as a little girl in Monteriggioni!

The last bolt slid smoothly into place and the sound of grating metal echoed from behind her, revealing a blue disc, glowing ethereally.

No time to think. She stuffed it into a secure internal pocket of her robes and looked back towards the door.

Now to find a way out of here.

She had barely made it back to the door when a body barreled heavily into her, almost knocking her off the portico.

Frantically flex her wrist to stab him, but he held himself out of her reach, using his bulk to push her into the portico as she tried to kick up at him.

No! She was so close!

A last ditch attempt. She rolled herself out towards the edge of the portico, grabbing onto the leg of the Second Horse to stop herself falling.  

He pulled himself off her and back towards the door, catching his breath a little

“It ends here for you, little assassin.”

A flicker of movement out of the corner of her eye. Something was coming up towards her from the Piazza.

Quickly pull herself back onto her feet on the portico.

Unsheath her hidden blade.

She was ready to pounce when a man suddenly appeared from behind the guard and tossed him over into the Piazza, the guard yelling the whole way down.

Her body responded immediately and tackled the stranger, who let out a pained grunt as she did so.

The stranger was apparently just as good at fighting as her, as he unsheathed a dagger and began to draw closer to her, grabbing at the neck of a Horse in an attempt not to slip.

Clearly he too had realised how slippery the portico was, far too late.

Circle each other.

Stab and duck backwards.

Aim a kick up at his chest, only for him to duck under it.

Parry a lightning fast blow.

Duck under the belly of a horse and reappear on the other side.

Dammit! He saw her movements!

A flurry of movement and the glint of steel in the moonlight and Jyn was slammed heavily onto the ground, her arm reaching to try and grab her fallen dagger, the stranger’s knee resting on her chest.

The stranger suddenly grabbed something on her chest with the hand not holding his dagger.

A heavily accented voice - was that a Spanish accent? - grumbled out, “Why do you wear this necklace?”

Jyn tried desperately to grab at it, but the tip of his dagger came to rest just beneath her jaw.

His voice growled out again. “Why do you wear this sigil?”

Her gloved hand grasped his dagger and she whispered, “Laa shay’a waqi’un moutlaq bale kouloun moumkine.”

In reply, the stranger sheathed his dagger, took his knee of his chest and flicked out his own hidden blade, taking care to show her the sigil on it.

“Nothing is true, everything is permitted.”

Above their heads, alarm bells began to ring.

Jyn took one look at the stranger, who gestured with his head over to the neighbouring buildings. As a single unit, they took off and began to run over the rooftops of Venezia.

 

--

 

They bolted quickly over the rooftops, the loud celebrations of Carnivale continuing in the streets below.

In the background, she could hear the shouts of the guards as they tried to follow her and the other Assassin dying away as they stopped trying to fight their way through the crowds. She quickly flicked her head back to look and check if anyone was following.

The alarms echoed in the distance and grew softer as the distance between her and the Basilica grew.

A quick roll over onto the roof of the Rialto as the stranger easily kept pace with her.

Follow the stranger as he jumped from the bridge over to the narrow brick buildings next to it.

He came to a sudden halt, cocking his head to one side. What was he - oh! He was listening for the bells. When he (and Jyn) could hear none, he pulled off his hood to reveal his face.

He was a handsome man, what should have been a gentle face offset with sharp features. His nose was crooked and he had a scar through the right side of his lip which she could clearly see through his scruffy beard.

But then she looked down and oh! His sash was richly embroidered in black and silver. What would a Master Assassin be doing here?

She flexed her fingers slightly and she saw his eyes dart downwards to that slight motion. Time to return the favour. She lowered her hood back and held out her hand.

“Thank you for your assistance back there at the Basilica, Maestro.”

He took her proferred hand gently, as though he were handling a blade of Damascus steel and spoke slowly to her, as though he were carefully considering each word before he said it.

“What was it that an Italian Assassin was doing at Saint Mark’s Basilica shortly after a meeting of Italy’s highest ranking Templars? And an Assassin who closely matches the description of the extremely dangerous individual who assassinated the Doge just before Carnivale to boot.”

Jyn bristled at that assumption. She ground out, “I was not the one to kill him - I did everything in my power to ensure that he survived.”

The man smiled, “I’m sure. If you fought half as hard as you did tonight, the Doge would undoubtedly still be alive. In the pay of the Templars, yes, but still alive nonetheless.”

Do not stab the foreign master.

Wait. How did he know that the Templars had had the old Doge in their employ?

She made to rap her fingers against her thigh, but stopped just as she began the movement, disguising the movement by smoothing out the tail of her sash and sitting down, swinging her legs over the ledge of the building.

The other Assassin followed suit, smirking a little.

“You didn’t answer my question.”

Jyn bit her tongue. How much to tell him. After all, he was a member of the Brotherhood, even if he was a stranger all at once. She pursed her lips.

“The Brotherhood in Roma receied word that the current Templar Master would be meeting with his followers in Venezia. La Maestra there sent me to find out who was meeting him and what they were meeting about.”

There. He had some information, but not all of it. And she’d be damned if she were telling him that, nestled firmly under her coat was the Seal of Eden.

She turned back to him. “And you, stranger? What made you, a foreign Master Assassin, black and silver on your sash, wish to climb up to an Assassin fighting off a much larger man on the Balcony of the Basilica?”

Now it was his turn to purse his lips. “The Spanish Brotherhood was once in possession of the key to a great artifact that the Templars wished to possess-”

Jyn cut him off. “What did you mean was ‘once in the possession of’?”

He flexed his fingers, his hidden blade flicking in and out.

“I mean that the Spanish Brotherhood was destroyed 3 months ago and our Seal taken from us. I’m in Italia seeking aid from the Italian Brotherhood.” He turned over to her. “And I climbed up to that balcony because I thought you would appreciate the aid. After all, we are of the same Brotherhood, are we not?”

She turned over his words in her mind. How to know that he would not betray the Italian Brotherhood if she were to get him an introduction.

Steela’s voice whispered in the back of her mind. Seduction is always about knowing what people want. Find out what they want and then you can stop them.

Jyn chanced a glance over at him. She could always take him to the second hideout on Isola Tiberina while she and Steela decided what to do. And he had proven himself trustworthy when he’d climbed up to her on the balcony to help a fellow Assassin without knowing anything else.

Time to take control of the situation. “Prove to me that I can trust you.”

He broke out laughing. “You can’t. Not one bit.” He leaned in close to her face, their hands almost brushing against each other’s. “But trust goes both ways. I need you to get me an introduction and you need my help to get you out of the city without being flayed alive by the guards. So do we have an agreement?"

Her face broke out into a grin. She liked his honesty. And Steela probably would as well. “Let’s start this again, from the beginning, shall we? My name’s Claudia Auditore. I’ll be heading out to Roma within the day. You’re welcome to join.”

Her smile was returned. “I’d introduce myself, but apparently most of the people in Italia can’t pronounce my name.” Something flickered across his face.

“What’s the name of this building?”

What? Jyn was absolutely confused about that. What could he be on about?

He kept talking. “I’m so sorry, Claudia, but every street I have been on in Italia has had a church on it. And I’m just a little curious - What’s this one called?”

Oh! But why?

She closed her eyes, bringing to mind her mental map of Venezia and the route that their flight from the Basilica had taken. “Ahhhh. It’s La Chiesa Di San Cassiano, I think.”

His smile grew even wider. “Then, in that case, my name is Cassian Andor. Nice to meet you, Claudia Auditore. Here’s to a fruitful partnership.”

 

--

 

They had agreed to meet back at the docks at sunset, Jyn arranging with Paola to have her trunks sent back to Roma separately with another messenger and to have horses waiting for them on the mainland.

She found Cassian waiting for her there, arguing with a boatman. Jyn hung back a little, waiting to see how this would resolve - which it did, with a bag of ducats handed over to him.

Cassian turned around, giving her a grin when he saw her, having discarded her distinctive robes and sashes in favour of normal riding clothes. She could feel the warmth of the Seal where it had been tucked into her breastband, carefully wrapped in a length of cloth until such time as she could tell Steela about it.

“Claudia! I was wondering where you were,” he said, gesturing to the boat waiting for them. And also the boatman, impatiently waiting for these foreigners to hurry up.

She ignored the hand he stretched out for her to use as balance and stepped lightly into the boat, herself, giving him a deeply insolent look in return.

She could see the scar at the edge of his mouth twitch as he undoubtedly tried to suppress a smile.

“Come on. Let’s get out of here.”

He nodded quickly towards the boatman, who quickly cast off the lines and off they were, back towards the mainland. Cassian went to stand in the prow of the ship, clearly ready to get to Roma.

Jyn went to go join him, but before she did, she looked back over her shoulder at the city, rapidly receding in the distance and almost gasped.

The brilliance of the sunset reflected off the great golden domes and spires of the city, where it floated on the waters of the lagoon, giving it a divine glow, almost as it it were lit up with flames.

But that was for another time. For now, she was content to stand next to Cassian, the wind whipping through her hair as the green of the mainland drew ever closer.

Chapter Text

The ride from Venice passed by quickly, the landscape turning into a single blur of green as she and Cassian joined the travellers on the great Via Augusta heading down to Firenze for the final day of Carnivale.

As the miles passed and they reached the countryside proper, the sun high in the sky and the world silent around them, Jyn took off the cap that had covered her face and shook her hair out, revelling in the feel of sunlight on the back of her neck. From where Cassian was riding beside her, she could feel his eyes on her, but she tightened her fingers on the reins, resisting the urge to do something as foolish or as girlish as fiddle with her hair.

Instead, she turned to Cassian, grinning as she did so, patting her mare’s neck. “Mind if I give her her head?”

A reserved grin in reply and a nod.

Jyn touched her heels to the flanks of her mare and she shot off like an arrow, smiling like a lunatic and bent low over her neck, the winds washing over the two of them as they ran.

It was two miles before Jyn pulled her horse to a walk and allowed Cassian to catch up to her, undoubtedly breathless from having galloped behind her carrying a small armoury on his back.

“Was that enough running for one day?” he puffed out at her, with no venom in his voice.

She gave a full laugh, throwing her head back. “Quite.”

 

--

 

For the week they spent on the road between Venice and Florence, Cassian insisted on staying at village inns, no matter that Jyn continued to protest that she was perfectly happy to sleep on the ground at the side of the road.

And each and every time that Jyn said that, she could see the scar at Cassian’s mouth twitch, as though he were trying not to smile at the thought of it.

 

--

 

Firenze was beautiful,the spires of its churches rising high into the air, albeit rather cold after the brilliant colours and sparkle of Venezia. Unfortunately for Cassian and Jyn, they had miscalculated on how many Brotherhood members would based out of Firenze. They had also miscalculated how welcoming the city as a whole would be to a man and woman travelling together during Lent. Which brought them to their current predicament.

Jyn was almost doubled over with laughter at the frown on his face when they had been shown to their room in the bureau. Even with all the privations of travel over the last week, she hadn’t seen him this annoyed before.

Through her choked off laughs, she managed to say, “It’s fine, Cassian. If you’re so concerned about this, I can always sleep on the floor - it’s nothing compared to what training was like.”

His brow furrowed. “No need for that,” he grumbled, gathering a single pillow from the bed and rolling out a blanket from his saddlebags, bundling himself into it, using his coat as an additional pillow.

“Cassian? Are you sure that’s a good idea?” Jyn asked, her eyes still sparkling with laughter.

The pile of blankets on the floor began speaking. “Completely. Get into bed, Jyn.”

She eyed the bed. The bruises and stiff muscles of her legs protested at the thought of sleeping on the ground simply out of stubbornness. Oh well, no use in arguing with the Master here.

 

--

 

The Master of the Firenze bureau was deeply unimpressed and unsurprised to hear of the Doge’s death in Venice, merely resting his head briefly in his hand and rubbing his temples. However, he was far more interested in hearing of the Templars and their desperate quest for these so-called Seals, even to the point of waging open war on the Spanish Brotherhood to attain them.

The Venezia Seal still remained tucked into Jyn’s breastband for safekeeping.

“We might be of one Brotherhood, but that didn’t necessarily mean you have to tell them anything,” a little voice that sounded a lot like Steela whispered in the back of her mind.

He sat in quiet contemplation for a moment before his face hardened.

“I need to speak to some people about this - you may need to carry a few messages to the Brotherhood in Roma on my behalf.”

He gave her a dismissive wave and she walked out of the room, hearing him mutter softly to himself about someone called Niccolo.

 

--

 

Jyn stepped outside into the sunshine of San Marco, only to find a crowd of people shouting in the great square as a preacher shouted from the steps of the convent.

She turned around, frantically looking for a way out of the crowd when a strong hand grabbed her by the elbow and hissed in her ear. Cassian. “Stay calm - don’t draw any attention to us or the bureau you just walked out of.”

Breathe in. Breathe out. Centre herself.

She turned to him, as he began to lead her out of the crowd towards a large walled palazzo, a question at the tip of her tongue.

Cassian cut her off, nodding his head at the wall in front of them. “Rumour has it that the gardens of this palace are a truly stunning sight. And I suspect, given that it is Lent, no one would be around. At the very least, it would get us out of the crowd.”

She grinned at him.

Jumped up to grab the first of the great stones in the wall.

Cassian, as always, kept pace beside her.

She stood on the edge of the wall, only to see - green. And a series of gardens that outmatched anything she had ever seen in Roma.

Look down. She was standing above a great pile of leaves from the gardens.

Spread her arms out wide.

Jump into thin air.

A soft thump as she landed in it.

She quickly rolled out of it, just in time for Cassian to land, far more smoothly than she had.

A soft smile suddenly appeared on his face and she raised her eyebrows in response, cocking her head.

“Nothing - don’t worry, Claudia. Just that -” he reached out and picked something out of her hair. “You just had a leaf in your hair.”

Jyn gently grabbed it out of his hand, gesturing towards a small secluded alcove near the walls. “Why don’t we sit down and you can give me some answers.”

Once they had both settled, she turned to him, one brow quirked.

He took a deep breath in and began to speak.

“The preacher that you saw outside? His name is Girolamo Savonarola - and his influence in Firenze only grows by the day.”

Jyn bit her tongue, silently processing the information.

“Is there anything in particular that he preaches about to bring him such a large following?” she asked carefully.

Cassian stretched his legs out in front of them and snorted. “Nothing out of the ordinary. Only that the Church is full of wanton vices and the only way to truly be rid of them is to allow the French to invade Italia."

The information came into her mind and she stiffened when she realised what he meant. No wonder the Firenze bureau was so crowded - they would have their hands completely full trying to prevent a French invasion.

Her voice came out in a whisper. “He calls for an invasion of Italia?”

Another huff from Cassian. “I’m honestly not surprised that it hasn’t happened earlier. Look around us. The chaos? A word of advice, Claudia. Only the powerful among us may play at politics and come out smelling of roses. They do not suffer. It’s only the poor and the downtrodden that suffer.”

Jyn bit her tongue, thinking over what he said. “But surely the Brotherhood can provide some benefit for the people -”

He cut her off. “What benefit can the Brotherhood provide when it’s still engaged in an ages-old conflict between two warring factions? We get so caught up in the war that we forget why we truly exist.”

“And what, pray tell, would that be?”

The scar at the edge of his mouth twitched. “To bring freedom where once there was none. But I didn’t bring you here to argue about philosophy and politics.”

Jyn followed his suit and relaxed, revelling in being able to stretch out her legs. She looked over at him and realised precisely how close they had gotten during their discussion and shuffled away slightly. “So then, Master Assassin, why did you bring me here?”

He nodded his chin at the great gardens stretching out before them. “No one’s here and I thought you would appreciate a chance to stretch your legs after our journey.”

She gave him a brilliant grin and stood up, stretching out a hand to help him up, which he promptly ignored, before standing and stretching out his back.

“Was the ground too uncomfortable for you, old man? Do you want me to give you a headstart in our race.”

Cassian quirked his brow. “Why, Madonna Claudia. I was not aware that we were racing.”

Jyn took off at a full sprint, calling out over her shoulder. “Well, we are now!”

Her smile grew even wider when she heard Cassian’s heavy footsteps behind her and she turned her face back to the garden paths.

 

--

 

It was nearing nightfall when they finally returned to the bureau, their arms laden down with the supplies they would need for the rest of the ride.

As they prepared for sleep, she saw Cassian cast a baleful glare at his bedroll, which still lay on the floor and she laughed out loud.

“Cassian! I told you - it’s no matter for me. You can take the bed! I’m not in the mood to ride with someone whose back will be hurting all the way to Orvieto.”

He bit his tongue, clearly holding back a protest.

She raised her hands. “Look! If you’re so concerned that I’ll hurt if I sleep on the floor, then we can share!”

He looked deeply affronted at the notion that they would share a bed, awkwardly standing stock-still in the middle of the room.

Jyn climbed into the bed, still in her boy’s clothes from earlier, pulling the sheet over her. “I can guarantee you, I have absolutely no designs on your virtue. Now get in the bed or I’ll stab you and stick you in the bed regardless.”

Cassian threw his hands up in surrender, pulling his coat on and lying awkwardly on top of the covers beside her.

She rolled over away from him and curled herself into a ball.

“Good night, Cassian.”

 

--

 

They were back on the road the next day, Jyn having woken up to realise that Cassian had rolled over in his sleep and thrown his arm over her waist, pulling her close. And what was odd about it was that she hadn’t had too much word in the way of protest.

She lay there in silence, all her muscles tensing. Cassian must have realised that she had woken up, because he suddenly jerked awake, nearly jumping out of the bed.

Jyn tried to stifle her laugh at his actions, which only earned her a baleful glare in response.

“Does your back feel better at least?”

She took his silence to be assent.

He turned his back to her and began to get himself ready in silence, packing the unused bedroll back into his saddlebags.

 

--

 

The road out of Firenze stretched out before them and they rode side-by-side out of the city walls. They had barely cleared the flower fields just outside the city when Cassian’s horse suddenly began to whinny and snap his teeth whenever Jyn came too close.

“He doesn’t like me very much, does he?”

Cassian gave a snort and patted his neck. “I’m sure he does.”

Jyn scowled over at him. “Well, in that case, he’s got a rather odd way of showing it.”

“You know, Claudia. He reminds me rather of a good friend of mine back in Spain.”

She cocked her head. “Your horse doesn’t have a name, does he? Perhaps you should name him after that friend.”

A slight grin from Cassian.

“Very well, then, Claudia Auditore. He shall, from this moment on, be referred to as Kay the Second.”

“Kay? That’s not very Spanish is it?”

He rubbed the back of his neck, almost as if he were embarrassed by whatever it was.

“No, Kay isn’t Spanish at all - he’s actually originally from Britain.”

Jyn pretended to muse on that topic for a moment, giving him a sardonic Roman smile.

“A British Assassin who serves the Spanish Brotherhood. How curious. You are a fascinating man, Cassian Andor.”

He returned her smile and cocked his chin. “Keep your eyes on the road and not on Kay Two, Claudia Auditore.”

A few hours from Firenze, Cassian suddenly turned to Jyn.

“How far is it from here to Monteriggioni?”

Monteriggioni? What on God’s good earth could a Spanish Master Assassin want to find in Monteriggioni, of all places?

She pulled her mare to a halt, stopping in the middle of the road. Cassian looked over at her, slowing down. He reached out a hand - for comfort? - which she shook off.

He kept speaking, possibly to cover any awkwardness between them. “I have a contact that wants to meet me there - it’ll be very quick, Claudia. Just a few hours or so, and you can wait for me just outside the city.”

Jyn pursed her lips so tightly they were almost white.

Breathe in.

“I’m not going into the city, Cassian. You can meet with your contact alone, va bene?”

A sharp nod in reply.

 

--

 

The mountain rose sharply in front of them, a looming shadow on Jyn’s face.

She pulled her mare to a halt, clutching at the reins in a desperate attempt to stop her hands shaking.

Cassian’s horse whinnied in protest beside her as he also brought it to a halt and swung down to the ground, looking up at her, his face full of concern for her. “Claudia - are you quite alright?”

She took a deep breath in, painting a smile on her face. “Just a little tired, Cassian - no great matter.”

He reached over to squeeze her hands reassuringly and she tried not to tense instinctively at the touch. He cocked his head at her. “Do you know this place, Claudia?”

Jyn forced herself to keep the smile on her face.

My name is not Jyn Erso. It is Claudia Auditore.

“No - I’ve not seen this city before, but I believe some of the Brotherhood’s allies have a base around here.”

She cast her eyes over at Cassian, who looked as though he believed absolutely none of what she had just said. In any case, he continued to hold onto her hands, and smiled comfortingly at her.

“I need to know that you’ll be alright to keep going, Claudia. Why don’t we go up into the town so we can stay there overnight. Maybe you’ll feel better after that?”

A mute nod in reply.

He squeezed her hands again, before releasing them and climbing back on. “Will you be quite alright to continue? You don’t need to meet with my contact at all tomorrow - just wait for me at the inn and we’ll leave as soon as it’s over.”

 

--

 

Jyn had a restless and sleepless night, tossing and turning, thinking on the last time that she had been in Monteriggioni.

The man in white, her mother’s last words to her - everything kept running through her mind.

Through the wall that divided their rooms, all she could hear was silence from Cassian.

She sat up in bed, giving herself time to catch her breath. Jyn closed her eyes and fisted her hand in the sheets.

Sleep would be a lost cause at this point.

She climbed out of bed and started to pull on her boots.

Kill the past. Don’t let it rule over you anymore.

 

--

 

The streets of Monteriggioni were absolutely silent as Jyn sprinted over the rooftops, lit only by the light of the moon.

Her feet moved almost instinctively, her old home calling her as a moth to a flame.

The only sounds here were her footsteps and her heartbeat in her ears.

There it was - the old house, the gardens once tenderly cared for by her father now overgrown and ragged.

The voices of the past began to whisper in her ears.

Shake her head.

Press the heels of her hands into her eyes.

Whatever I do, I do it to protect you.

The stone of the house still remained intact - the house still standing strong in the shadows of the night.

We’ll come for you, piccina!

Jyn’s boots clicked on the road as she dropped to the ground and began to walk into her old home.

Every stick of furniture in the house had been smashed to pieces and the inside had been turned into a ruined mess.

Up! Higher, papa!

She’ll be like her mother - an Eagle seeking heights.

In her mind’s eye, she could still see it as it had once been, a fire burning merrily in the hearth and the colourful rugs her parents had bought from their adventures laying on the floor.

Her feet traced a familiar path down into the cellar.

Step gingerly down the stairs.

Clutch blindly at the stone walls.

Let her Eagle soar, the entire room lit in gold and grey.

Her mother’s chest still stood open and empty in the middle of the room, exactly where it had been on that fateful day ten years ago.

Jyn knelt before it, gently tracing the worn lines of it.

There was a sudden click from the lid, as the top half came away, only to reveal a sheath of papers, still intact and protected from the elements.

Gather the papers back into the chest.

Carry it up the stairs.

Lay it on the ground.

Pull a taper and a tinderbox from her pocket, carefully lighting it away from the papers.

Jyn stroked her fingers over them and began to flick through them.

A handful of pages with careful drawings of crystals, much like the ones in her necklace.

More with drawings of the Seal. She could feel its warmth through the layers of fabric she had wrapped it in to disguise its brilliant glow.

And there were a pile of well-worn sheets beneath that, as though someone’s fingers had traced over it regularly - and - oh.

Her childish face looked up at her from the sheet, her round cheeks drawn with a tender softness.

Which meant that the portrait of the woman on the other side must be - her mother.

Jyn clutched the drawing in her shaking hands.

She hadn’t seen her mother’s face in so long.

Her gloved finger stroked over her mother’s face at the wisp of her hair that stubbornly hung in her face - just like on her own.

She stared at it - at the hair so similar to her own, the shape of her face, the high cheekbones, the chin.

It had been so long.

We’ll come for you, piccina! Go!

A sudden noise from outside the house roused her from her reverie, Jyn snapping her head up so hard she was surprised her neck wasn’t broken.

She silently put the papers back into the chest whence they had come and drew her hidden blade.

A set of footsteps came closer to the house.

The door creaked on its ancient hinges.

A shadow appeared in the open door in the moonlight.

Jyn pounced before they could come any closer, throwing them both back through the open door.

The shadow rolled them both over and had a blade at her throat before she could even think.

Wait. That hood -

“Cassian?” she gasped out.

He drew himself back as if he had been burned. His eyes narrowed.

“What were you doing here?”

Stand up. Straighten her back. Smooth her hair back to hide her shaking hands.

“I was exploring the city a little.”

A snort in response. “In the middle of the night? Claudia, you will have to do much better than that.”

Resist the urge to move around.

Plant your feet in the ground, Jyn and tell your opponent, no, you move.

She cocked her head at him. “Am I not allowed to ask why you were roaming around Monteriggioni in the night?”

“I wasn’t aware that a foreign Master was accountable to you.”

The tap of her fingers on her thigh.

“I thought I was speaking to Cassian Andor, not the Master Assassin of the Spanish Brotherhood.”

He drew ever closer to her.

“Stop being evasive, Claudia. What were you doing here?”

Her eyes suddenly focused on a small flash of light on the floor. Oh God. Her hand fluttered up to her chest where the Seal normally sat.

Completely empty.

Oh God.

Cassian caught sight of what she was looking and grabbed it before she had the chance to, holding it up to his line of sight before turning to her, his eyes flinty.

He held it in front of her face.

“Do you even know what this is?”

Meet his gaze head on. Cock her head.

“It was just a little trinket from Venezia -”

He cut her off. “Will you stop lying to me, Claudia?”

Jyn tried to reach out and pull it from his hand, but his grip was too strong.

“What does this mean to you, Claudia Auditore of the Italian Brotherhood?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about! Someone gave it to me a while ago! Now please give it back?”

The volume of his voice dropped and his eyes were full of rage. “Do you even know what this is?”

“It’s none of your business! It’s mine! Please, give it to me!”

His hand clenched and unclenched at his side and he tightened his jaw.

“Do you know what you fucking have?”

She almost recoiled from the force of his voice.

Cassian kept going. “Clearly not. You were carrying the key to one of the most deadly weapons known to man. Capable of levelling cities and destroying armies with a single thought - did you know that?”

What?

“Did you know that the Spanish Brotherhood was destroyed because we possessed one of these? No? And now, a foolish novice wears one as a decoration? The very thing that my entire family was murdered trying to protect?”

“I didn’t know any of this! Keep your voice down or we’ll be killed!”

A snort. “You think that the guards are my greatest worry right now?”

“I’m trying to think clearly - because you’re not!”

Cassian pushed himself closer into Jyn’s space and hissed at her.

“And do you know why? Because you held the Seal of Eden in your possession and you had no idea what it did. The last time the weapon was used, it destroyed half of Syria! So now I ask you this, Claudia, in all sincerity - are you hiding anything else?”

She jabbed a finger into his chest. “No! Why would I even be hiding things? I didn’t know any of that!”

Scoff.

“Of course not. The Italian Brotherhood. Forever sheltering their initiates from the true dangers of this world.”

Her rage started building in her chest again.

“You know nothing of what you speak of.”

“And what do I speak of? What could a girl from Roma know about the world?”

“I’m not from Roma, cazzo! I’ve seen enough of it to choose to fight!”

Cassian drew back, a vicious and sardonic smile on his lips. “Fight. You chose to fight.”

“Cassian, you know nothing of my pain!”

A full-blown laugh from him.

“Pain? Oh, Claudia. You convince yourself that your petty squabbles mean that you know pain. Why don’t you head on back to Rome -”

“The Templars took everything from me! My mother killed my father to stop him helping them! And I had to watch them die! Both of them!”

Another laugh.

“How terrible for you, watching a traitor be cut down. I watched my mother being dragged out to the auto-da-fe, while the noblemen all promenaded around her bonfire as if it were a festival. I watched my entire village be slaughtered save for me simply because it had the hint of a clue to the Seal’s location -”

“So? The Templars took everything from both of us! You should be fighting them, not shouting at me!”

“And yet your Brotherhood has done a fantastic job of being blind to the basics of what they seek! You try to fight this war by shoving your head into the sand. The war is suddenly real for you? Some of us live it! Some of us choose to do something about it!”

Her fingers flexed.

Grab the Seal from his hand.

“Don’t try to talk your way out of this.”

She stormed out, running to the stables and away from all of this.

As she ran, she could hear his voice.

“I don’t need to.”

Chapter Text

Jyn rode like an absolute madwoman the whole way to Orvieto, only stopping when it seemed as though her mare would be lamed.

She slept on the side of the road, her pack under her head, trying to put as much distance between her and Monteriggioni as possible.

What do you know of pain?

She rubbed her temples. If he didn’t know who she was and hadn’t told her name to the entire world already, she would be surprised if a God didn’t exist.

No - this was too much.

Keep her eyes focused on the road.

Listen to the sound of hoofbeats on the road.

Ignore the warmth of the seal from where it hung from the chain of her necklace.

The moment she arrived at the Orvieto bureau, she nearly collapsed onto the bed in the tiny whitewashed room she was shown to, the memories and voices of the last few days too much for her.

 

--

 

Jyn slept like the dead for almost a full day, only roused from her sleep by her stomach growling with hunger.

She had barely stepped foot outside of the bureau when -

“Hi Jyn. Can we talk?”

Cassian?

What was he doing here? And what was that in his hand?

Close her eyes. Centre herself.

Reach out and shove him aside.

She kept walking, hearing his footsteps behind her. Cassian grabbed her elbow, at which she wheeled around.

Her other hand reached down to her belt and grabbed her dagger, holding it up to his neck.

He stood there, completely still.

“I know you’re angry at me, Jyn, but can we talk?”

Jyn kept the dagger at his neck and gave him a brutally sardonic smile. “If you keep calling me by that name, we will not talk and the guards will never find your body.”

Cassian gingerly reached out a finger, pushing the dagger to one side.

“I have absolutely no doubt of that, but I’m here to apologise to you.”

Her eyes narrowed.

“Look - Jy- Claudia, sorry - I know you’ll never trust me properly again, but can we at least talk?”

“We are talking.”

She lowered the dagger and his face broke into a relieved smile.

Jyn turned her smile back onto him. “And now I’m leaving. Follow me and I’ll have you thrown to a pack of wild dogs. Good day, ser Andor.”

 

--

 

It was hours before she returned to the Bureau, taking a long and meandering route through the city to ensure that she wasn’t tailed by a particularly persistent Master Assassin.

She pushed the window shutters open, only to see -

Oh, per l’amore di Dio. Not here as well.

Even as angry as she was at him, the sight of him still made her traitorous heart skip a beat and her palms sweat.

She shoved those feelings deep down inside of her.

Jyn took a deep breath in. Might as well get this out of the way.

She climbed in and Cassian quickly rose from his seat on the floor, hands raised in surrender.

“Look, Claudia - you wanted me to call you that - I’m so sorry about this, I just wanted to talk, and can you just listen to me for a moment?”

Not a word from her in response. She bit her tongue and sat on the edge of the bed, spreading her hands in a gesture that told him to keep talking.

He closed his eyes.

“There are three tenets to the service of an Assassin: Stay your blade from the flesh of an innocent, hide in plain sight and never, by word or by deed, betray the Brotherhood.”

The raise of her eyebrow.

“You are telling me, Cassian Andor, that you chased me all the way from Orvieto, to tell me the tenets of a Creed that I swore to uphold?”

He clenched and unclenched his fist.

“What I was trying to say is that the terms of your duty are the same as mine. And that I should not have questioned your loyalty to the Brotherhood.”

His head drooped slightly.

“I know, Claudia, that you can never trust me again, but I -” he licked his lips and shrugged, “I could not allow things as they were between us to stand.”

Jyn tapped her finger on the edge of the bed and cocked her head. “You know what? I agree with you on one count. I sure as hell don’t trust you.”

From where she was sitting, she could see his face fall.

He rocked awkwardly from one foot to the other, looking for all the world like a schoolboy about to be chastised and not a Master Assassin.

“I deserved that, but - I don’t want there to be any secrets between us, Claudia. I was not sent by anyone to Italy. I came to Italy to track your father. I needed to find the next Seal before the Templars could.”

She stood up and dragged over a chair for him. “Sit down, Cassian. You look like a fool.”

He sank down gratefully onto the chair.

"And what of Venezia? What did my father have to do with Venezia?” she asked.

A hesitant look crossed his face.

“Your father - he left a number of his notes in Toledo. He mentioned that Altair ibn La’Ahad had ordered that one of the Seals be hidden in Constantinople in the great quadriga. I knew that it had come to Venezia as a spoil of war, so, naturally, I came to Italia. And - when I came, I saw the Templars massing and that the Doge was too weak to resist them so -”

He shrugged again.

Jyn suddenly realised what he meant and jumped up, pointing an accusatory finger in his face. “You! You killed the Doge! You told me that I would have to flee the city - Why did you not tell me about it?”

“I have kept so many secrets in my life - I don’t want there to be any more between us.” He reached into a pocket and Jyn felt her body tense up.

What was he doing?

Oh God.

Her father’s Codex.

“I remember that you were looking at this in the house - for what little it’s worth, I am truly sorry about what happened to your family.”

Jyn felt her face grown as hard as ice.

“Do not presume to speak of them -”

Cassian lifted his hands in surrender again.

“I’m truly sorry about all of this. I swear to you, Claudia Auditore, that as soon as I can get the help I need from your Grand Master, I will be on the first boat back to Spain. And you will never see me again. Will that suffice?”

She gave a sharp nod of approval and put out her hand to shake. He grasped it gingerly, as though he were afraid she would stab him.

“I agree to your terms, Cassian Andor. And know this. If I see you in Roma again, I will kill you. Now get out.”

He nodded sharply and stood up to awkwardly look at her from the doorway. She turned away, hearing his footsteps echo off into the night.

 

--

 

The next day, they rode to Roma in complete silence.

Chapter Text

The moment they reached the brothel hideout, she could see Cassian’s lip start to curl as she shoved him towards the open door.

Under her breath she was muttering, “Look interested in being here, this is the hideout, idiota .”

He hissed back under his breath. “I realised but was it really necessary to bring me through the front entrance?”

A coo arose from the girls working the desk that day.

Jyn gave him a brilliant grin and whispered, “Of course it was, how else would I get to see this?”

She felt him clutch her arm as she tossed a florin over to Leia, clearly undergoing her training with the other courtesans, before telling her, “He’s here to meet Steela, but let him sweat for 15 minutes first.”

Leia cocked her head at her, “Who is he?”

Jyn felt her face twist into a sardonic Roman grin. “He’s part of your training. If you manage to distract him, I’ll give you the day off so that you can join Luke with the other novices.”

Leia returned the smile, pulling a curl free and loosened her corset, turning over to Cassian, grabbing his arm.

A riot of female laughter as they began to surround Cassian, ushering him up to a private salle as their clothes began to come off. He turned back to Jyn as they walked him away, looking for all the world as a man going to his death.

She bit the inside of her lip until he was out of sight and finally collapsed to the floor laughing at the sight.

 

--

 

For the next week, it was almost unbearable to walk through the hideout on the upper levels of the brothel, only to see Cassian’s face at every turn, or to hear his voice in conversation with Steela in her office.

They had had one excruciating conversation in the stairwell, where he had awkwardly acknowledged her and attempted to mumble the formalities and a few apologies.

She had cut him off with a quick and false smile. “Maestro, I hear that you will be leaving us shortly for Spain.”

A nod in reply.

“In July, Claudia - Your Mentor - she has promised me a dozen novices and a Florentine master to help me rebuild the Brotherhood -”

He trailed off and Jyn bit her lip, trying to think of how to escape the conversation.

Thankfully, she was spared further awkwardness by someone shouting for her help as a patron was thrown out of the brothel.

She instead took to spending her days in Bodhi’s studio, with him teaching her how to mix his pigments into brilliant colour as he continued working on his Annunciation, in between insisting that she sit for more sketches and using her to help him test his new and strange ideas.

“Claudia! This is all the rage in China!”

Jyn gave the device a skeptical look. It looked like an arquebus that someone had turned completely inside out and then shrunken to the size of a fist.

“You are telling me that this device can be clipped onto my Hidden Blade and will result in a hammer blow to rival Vulcan?”

A series of bright nods in response.

She gave him a quick look - the dark circles beneath his eyes and his slightly manic grin spoke of far too many sleepless nights over these strange inventions.

A deep breath in.

“Where shall I aim it, then?”

Bodhi gave her a completely crazed grin and grabbed a large piece of wood off the floor, quickly scribbling a face on it.

She almost toppled over, torn between rage and laughter, when she realised who it was.

“Bodhi, how the hell do you know about him?”

His eyes widened when he realised that she was holding her gun (was that what he had called it?) in his general direction. He held his hands up.

Bodhi began stammering his excuses, “Madonna, I saw him at the hideout! I just saw how awkward you two were around each other and it was almost unbearable and I saw how you kept glaring at him -”

Jyn rolled her eyes and hefted the gun higher. “Maestro Rook, shall we start?”

 

--

 

The single, once white, and now bloodstained feather that Jyn held in her hand felt as heavy as a stone as she handed it over to Steela.

She bit the inside of her cheek, willing herself not to cry or show any emotion. Ille tempus sede vacante might be a time for mourning for the rest of Roma, but Jyn was not the rest of Roma. She needed to keep going.

Steela might be the closest thing to a mother she had, but right now, she was not her mother, she was the Grand Master of the Italian Brotherhood and Jyn was merely an Assassin doing her job.

She pulled her back straight and pulled her sash into place with shaking hands, watching Steela give her an encouraging nod.

“The Cardinal did not die well, Maestra - I could not get anything out of him before he slashed his own throat,” her voice caught for a moment. “It was not easy, Maestra.”

Steela pursed her lips before her face softened and she came around the table to press Jyn’s shaking hands between her own. She pulled herself back and was once more the fierce leader of the Assassins, but the shaking of her hands betrayed her true emotions.

“The power of the Templars in the city has only increased with the death of the Pope - if we lose another den, our power will be destroyed. For now, go get yourself cleaned up. Take the back stairs, Claudia. I suspect I’ll have another mission for you in the morning. The death of a pope is not an easy business. One more thing.”

She lifted her head to meet Steela’s eyes and saw - was that fear there?

“You were quite right to hide the Seal from everyone else, Jyn - the Spanish Master was not lying about its power.”

Leia, the newest of the novices, stood in the stairwell, her hair perfectly braided and tied back, her hands and robes still clean.

Jyn was quiet as she went up the stairs, her head starting to spin - the adrenaline of the chase has worn off and the excitement of the hunt is all over and now -

Now?

Now there was only silence as she ascended the stairs.

She could feel the blood that had splattered over her beginning to stiffen in her hair - she had lowered her hood just for a moment to reassure the man - and -

A voice echoed at her from the top of the stairs. Jyn shook herself out of her reverie to see Cassian rushing down the stairs, grabbing her hands in his.

“What happened to you?”

She couldn’t muster the strength to tell him to leave - and a small, traitorous part of her protested that she didn’t want him to anyway.

Jyn allowed herself to be mutely pulled up the stairs, only vaguely registering Cassian shouting at a pair of novices to fetch some hot water for her and sitting her down on a stool while he grabbed a rag, dampening it and holding it in front of her.

Her voice came out smaller than expected and she batted away his ministrations.

“Why are you doing this for me?”

He crouched in front of her, clearly twisting the words in his mind.

“Is it so terrible that I want to see you safe?”

Upon seeing that she wouldn’t take the rag and clean herself, he took it and began to gently rub at the blood on her face. His thumbs gently swept over her cheekbones and she caught his hand, lightly holding it in place.

She dropped her gaze to the ground. “I don’t know how to feel about you, Cassian Andor.”

He gave her a sad little smile and took her other hand in his. “Don’t think too hard about it.”

And then he suddenly was leaning up and in and his lips were on the corner of her mouth, warm and gentle and soft. He started to draw back and then she instinctively pulled him back, kissing him full on his lips.

She opened her mouth under his, leaning into him, and he crushed her to him, kissing her as if he were drowning and she were the air in his lungs.

Her body responded automatically and she needed more of him, quicker. Jyn pushed herself off the stool and into his lap, pulling him closer by the lapels of his coat and running her fingers under his shirt and -

Her mind suddenly caught up with her and she stiffened, pulling herself away, and brushing a loose lock of hair out of her face and rubbing at her face.

“I shouldn’t have done that!”

His face was open for a change, filled with hurt. He sat back on his heels and looked at her.

“Why not, Claudia?”

She pushed the heel of her palm into her eyes, willing her eyes to stop filling with tears. Jyn suddenly burst out, in half a sob.

“Because you’re going to be like everyone else and leave me!”

He gently took her hands in his again, pressing his lips to them.

“I won’t be gone forever - I’ll come back for you. This I vow on the Creed, Claudia Auditore.”

She couldn’t stop the tears from falling then and whispered, “No more secrets between us - my name is Jyn Erso.”

“Jyn Erso.” The name on his lips sounded as though he were a sinner standing before God.

He said it again, and she couldn’t resist pulling him in for another kiss, running her hand through his hair and his hands were under her shirt and she was tugging off his coat and then -

A sharp rapping sound from outside the door.

The two of them jumped apart and she spun her head around to glare at the door.

A voice from outside called out, “Maestro? You asked for hot water to be brought up to your room?”

Cassian let out a frustrated groan before he got up to unlatch the door.

As the novice came in, he said in a timid little voice, “Maestro? You have something on your face?”

Cassian reached up to touch the streak of blood across his face, realising what it was a split second before Jyn did, as she took the pitcher of hot water from the novice, trying desperately not to laugh at his face.

The novice almost tripped in his haste to get out of the room and Cassian and Jyn almost fell over laughing.

He reached out to tuck a stray lock of hair behind her ear and kissed her tenderly on the cheek before he left the room.

“Good God, I’ll miss you, Jyn Erso.”

 

--

 

The conclave had been as fierce as it had been long, rumours of carts of bullion being sent from palazzo to palazzo echoing through Roma. But alas, at long last, Jyn could hear the shouts of ‘habemus papam’ in the streets and the sounds of a riot.

No. The last two weeks had been a godsend for her and Cassian - it could not come to such an ignominious end. Not like this. Not without kissing him again or touching him or seeing him or his smile -

Oh God. Was this what love felt like?

Almost blindly, she ran up to the rooftop to find her boys’ clothes, sprinting over to where she knew he kept lodgings.

Her footsteps on the rooftops.

The pigeons scattering in front of her in her desperate run.

The sound of her breath echoing in her ears.

The window of his room loomed above her.

Jump up and start climbing up the bricks.

She knocked on the shuttered window, Cassian’s confused face looking at her.

“What are you doing here, Jyn?”

She clambered in, suddenly hesitant.

“I heard that there’s a new pope now.”

He nodded slowly, realising what she meant, before he reached out to touch her cheek. “I leave tomorrow, Jyn.”

She leaned into his touch, into his warmth, looking up and him and frantically blinking back her tears.

“I’m not going to let you leave.”

She mustn’t look up or she would burst into tears in truth .

Jyn blindly reached up to take his hand in hers.

“I can’t let you go without a goodbye at least.”

Cassian gave her a sad smile.

“This isn’t a goodbye, Jyn - I’ll come back as soon as I’m able to.”

Something flickered across his face and he pulled off the ring from his finger.

Oh God. Was that his Master’s ring?

Why was he giving this to her?

He brought their hands to his lips and kissed her fingers gently, slipping the too-large band onto her finger.

“It’s not a goodbye, it’s a promise. I’ll be coming back for this, you know.”

At that moment, the tears began to fall and she pulled him closer to her, needing to feel his warmth one more time, his lips on hers, to see his smile one more time, his body on hers.

He gently pushed her away, pressing his forehead to hers instead.

She whispered gently into his chest.

“Can I stay here with you tonight? I don’t want to be apart from you.”

A thumb reached up to swipe at the tears that had started to fall unbidden down her cheeks and he whispered back into her hair.

“There’s only one bed, Jyn.”

She painted a smile onto her face and looked up at him, the voice of the past reaching between them and saying.

“Don’t worry, Cassian. I can guarantee you, I have absolutely no designs on your virtue. Now get in the bed.”

He laughed and pulled her onto his chest, the two of them curling into each other, lost in their private despair, as night fell and Roma rejoiced around them.

Chapter Text

 

Six years later.

Jyn Erso woke up and her first thought was cold .

She looked down at her finger to find his ring loosely hanging off it, her single reminder of him. Jyn kissed the surface of it gently before placing it on the chain of her necklace, where it could rest warm against her heart, picking up the letter on the desk and folding it shut and tucking it back into her shirt.

A single night of them holding each other and the only things she had to show for it were a ring and the handful of letters that they had managed to send each other in the intervening years that represented the most unorthodox courtship Jyn had ever heard of.

The words of his last letter echoed through her mind.

From every direction with the bow of her brow

And the arrow of her eye, she has aimed at my heart.

My dearest, I swore that promise to you in earnest. If it takes me a thousand years more, I swear that I will return to you - every day, it becomes more painful to remain in Spain and not in your arms.

The earthly beauties of the Alhambra have absolutely nothing in comparison to your smiles. The sketch that you attached, which you had Bodhi draw, I have no doubt, is only a temporary salve in my mind for the sight of you in person, racing across the rooftops of Roma.

She closed her eyes and breathed in deeply, silently composing her reply to him in her mind, ready to commit it to paper as soon as she could.

Jyn ran through the harmless little anecdotes of life in the sanctuary she had saved up in her memories to tell him about when the time permitted - the nonsense she was roped into by the twins: Leia teaching her how to braid her own hair, Luke racing her across the rooftops, Maia getting into little spats with the guardsmen -

She closed her eyes, blocking out the chaos swirling in her mind.

The mission in Firenze had been even more difficult than either Jyn or Steela had suspected, Templars running loose everywhere, a mad preacher with a Piece of Eden and a Pope that Steela suspected of being the Templar Grand Master on the Throne of St Peter.

His beautiful paintings and frescoes had given way over the years to weapons of war and fortifications and she could see the lines etched into his face with the strain of it all.

Take a deep breath.

The Brotherhood was caught in a huge game of chess and it could do nothing until the Templars played their next move. It only stood to see what it would be.

A scream echoed in the distance, someone begging for help, it seemed like.

Jyn sighed and tensed all her muscles, running to the nearest wall and scaling it up to the rooftop, calling on her Eagle for help.

There they were, a woman trapped in a corner by a handful of Papal Guards - so many? In Trastevere, as well?

The screaming started anew - she was finally close enough to hear what was being said.

“Please! Please! Whatever you want! I’ll give it to you! Just leave me alone!”

She peered over the roof of the nearby building.

The woman was huddled in the dead end of the alleyway, the contents of her basket scattered over the ground in front of her.

Jyn took a breath.

Draw her hood over her face.

Draw the hidden blade.

Stand up.

Jump off the edge of the building.

She landed on top of one of the Papal Guards, stabbing him in the neck, before leaping at the next one and catching him by surprise.

The last one tried to land a blow on her shoulder while she was engaged with fighting the last one, but she ducked under his outstretched arm, grabbing it and pulling it backward.

It dislocated with a sickening crack before Jyn put him out of his misery.

“Requiescat in pace ,” she whispered to him as her blade sank home.

The blade was sheathed with a quick movement of her wrist.

Jyn stretched out a hand to the woman who was still cowering, pushing back her hood with the other.

“It’s alright now. What’s your name?”

She quickly stammered out, “Vittoria, Assassino.”

Jyn tried to give her a reassuring smile.

“Very well, Vittoria - you’d do best to get home before the Guards come back. If anyone harasses you again, come to the Rosa in Fiore and tell them that Claudia sent you."

And before the woman could respond, Jyn had disappeared into the shadows and into the streets.

 

--

 

She tilted her face up towards the sun, imagining Cassian doing the same thing in the Spanish sunshine, the scent of oranges in the air. Such a change from the smells of the Tevere and smoke that pervaded Roma.

Her feet carried her ever-closer to the Sanctuary and she started to relax, her muscles untensing at the thought of her bed and her writing desk before she walked directly into someone’s back.

What was going on?

There shouldn’t be any crowds today in Il Vaticano - there were no holy days, no major events, no nothing.

She looked up at the sky, hoping vainly for a sign of what was going on.

Wait.

Was that smoke?

Oh no.

What was going on?

The crowd of Romans grew ever larger as she got closer to the Vatican.

No! She needed to know what was going on!

Why was no one putting the fire out?

Jyn started to push and barrel her way through the throngs of people, ducking and wheeling under arm and past those in front of her and -

A set of screams rang through the air, followed by the sound of - were those swords?

Her mind went blank.

Fire.

The Sanctuary.

There were Papal Guards everywhere, surrounding the building, all with swords drawn and crossbows ready.

The Templars had come for them.

The shouts and desperate shrieks of those still burning with the hideout echoed in her mind. Dimly, she registered the faces on the ground that she recognised.

She turned her head this way and that, everywhere seeing the soot and bloodstained faces of the people she considered her friends.

Her family .

Her brothers .

Someone staggered towards her, reaching his arms out, collapsing on the ground in front of her before a crossbow bolt suddenly appeared in his chest.

Jyn frantically ran over, cradling him as he took his final gurgling breaths.  

No. The novices.

They were killing the novices.

The sound of a troop in heavy armour echoed behind her and she turned her head to see a group of men on horseback joining the mercenaries already there, led by a man in rich black velvet with an immaculate red cape, another man in pure white at his side, all of them dismounting and drawing their swords.

She was completely numb, kneeling in front of the ruins, completely unarmed, before a woman’s shriek rang through the air and a flash of white rushed towards the man in black with a sword.

“Stay away from my daughter, monster!”

Steela?

No - not Steela!

The ring of steel echoed through the air, the sound of blades clashing.

Suddenly it stopped and Jyn opened her eyes to see a series of crossbow bolts slam into Steela’s chest.

Whatever I do, I do it to protect you, Jyn, three voices echoed in her mind .

I’ll come back for you!

The feeling of Steela’s arms around her and the security she felt.

Someone began to scream and dimly, she realised that it was her.

Crawl over towards Steela, only to see the man in black in her way, holding something glowing -

No! They had the Seal!

The man in black advanced further on her.

Keep her hidden blade at her side.

He came close to stroke a lock of hair out of her eyes.

“What a pretty face,” she dimly registered him as saying.

Reach up and stab him as he reached down.

He let out a howl of pain and kicked her in the gut, knocking her onto the ground.

“Such a shame that you were one of them. We’ve had too much bloodshed for one day. I think a cleansing is in order.”

He levelled something at her chest.

“Consider this an invitation, little Assassin.”

The explosion rang out everywhere, impossibly loud and filled with pain.

Darkness.

Cold.

All she could feel was cold.

The pain didn’t stop.

She tried to open her mouth to scream, but nothing came out.

No - she had to reach Steela’s body. They couldn’t die alone.

Not like this.

Before the darkness washed over her, she could dimly hear a voice like Cassian’s, frantically whispering.

“No Jyn. Not here. Stay with me, Jyn. Stay with me.”

Why was he here? No!

She closed her eyes and tried to imagine the warmth of the Alhambra he had described to her as everything went black.

Chapter Text

Jyn awoke crying. A heavy sob wrenched its way out of her chest and into the darkness and she wailed.

Her entire family.

Steela.

Stay away from my daughter, monster!

Her family had been ripped from her all these years ago and she had again been forced to bear witness to another person die.

She tried to curl in on herself as the sobs racked her body, but the pain suddenly returned and the darkness surrounded her anew.

 

--

 

The next time she woke again, the pain wracked her body again and all she could see on the inside of her eyes was Steela desperately running into battle to protect her.

My daughter!

She started to cry again, thinking of the Sanctuary she had grown up in being devastated. She may not have been inducted into the Brotherhood until later in her life, but she couldn’t bear to deal with the sudden silence of her surroundings.

Jyn would never again sit at the foot of the courtesans as they taught her how to dress and seduce men.

Never again go running over the rooftops of Roma with the other Assassins.

Never again -

A cup came to her lips and a familiar hand gently pushed the hair out of her face and she fell into a dreamless sleep.

 

--

 

When she finally woke up, she was aware of her surroundings and, more importantly, the pain in her shoulder as she tried to shift awake.

Someone was tending to her, changing the bandages and she tried to sit up to see who it was before the pain came back and screamed in her arm.

Their face suddenly came into view and - Cassian?

What was he doing here?

He must have seen the confusion on her face because he quickly said, “Rest, Jyn. I know you’ve got a lot of questions, but I need to change these bandages first before I can answer any of them.”

Jyn lay back and tried to focus on the pain - it helped her focus on the present and not on the grief swirling in her heart.

Her vision suddenly grew dark at the edges and she could hear Cassian whisper, “Don’t fight it, Jyn. Rest.”

 

--

 

Steela’s voice echoed in her head as she slept.

Remember, Jyn. The Brotherhood has always served the people first. Remember why we do this.

Cassian’s words in the Pitti Gardens came back to her.

Only the poor and the downtrodden suffer when the great and powerful play at politics.

She held those words firmly in her heart.

 

--

 

She finally woke up well-rested, her shoulder protesting her every movement and a heavy weight on her legs. When she managed to gingerly raise her head to see what it was, it suddenly shifted and - Cassian?

“How long have I been here?” she managed to croak out.

He suddenly disappeared from her line of vision and reappeared with a cup of water, helping her to sit up enough to take a sip without her wound erupting into pain.

Cassian sat back and licked his lips, clearly thinking over his words.

“You’ve been here for 6 days - I managed to get to the Sanctuary to get to you before you bled out, but it was a close call.”

Her parched throat managed to croak out the word, “Spain” for long enough that he got the gist of it before he helped her take another sip of water.

“The Spanish Brotherhood is flourishing, Jyn, don’t worry, they’re all safe there, I ensured it before I left - I got off just moments before I saw the fires above the Vatican - I came back for you.”

She reached out to touch his arm with her good hand and whispered. “Never doubted that, just didn’t realise you would be so eager to see the shores of Italia.”

He laughed, half out of relief and desperation, she suspected, before leaning down to give her a gentle kiss on the brow and pulling something out of his pocket.

“I took this off you for safekeeping - the dottore doesn’t know of our connections to the Brotherhood - but you don’t quite look like you without it.”

Cassian walked quietly behind her, fastening the clasp as the heavy, familiar weight sat at her neck and she reached up to touch his ring.

Had he been tending to her for the entire six days?

“I was also going to give this to you in happier times when I returned, but I suspect now is a better time than never.”

She looked down at the knife he was holding in his hand, reaching down with her good hand to unsheathe the blade as he held the sheath firm and gasped when she saw it.

He pulled away, nuzzling closer to her ear, whispering to her, “It’s Toledo steel - strong enough to punch through armour if you need to.”

Jyn turned and looked up at him for a moment, trying not to jostle her bad shoulder too much and leaned in to press her lips to his, for the first time in six years, pouring her sorrows and despair and joy into it, before he reached an arm around her waist, pulling her closer to him when -

She drew back, hissing from the pain of the injury, Cassian quickly checking over her bandages to ensure they were still clean.

As he did so, her eyes flickered around the room they were in - it was small and well-kept, and clearly not Cassian’s lodgings from earlier.

He caught sight of her glances and quickly explained.

“We won’t be betrayed here - No one knows about your survival here and the doctor that allowed us to use this room is being well compensated for it. But enough of that - I’d like to get some food into you, if you can bear to be awake a little longer.”

“Cassian, I need to know what’s -”

“Jyn, food first.”

 

--

 

Jyn was cooped up in their lodgings for another week, bristling more and more with the confinement each day.

Plans began to swirl in her head about what to do, but she could hardly escape from Cassian’s watchful eye or with absolutely nothing to her name. She had managed to survive with nothing but her hidden blade and the clothes on her back.

What good could an Assassin with no support manage to do in a Roma under attack?

When it finally came time for Jyn to venture out, Cassian helped her dress in a set of surprisingly rich boys’ clothes that the doctor he had found (he had stressed that this was the last doctor in Roma who would still treat people for free, in direct opposition to the new regime) with his dagger at her hip.

The doctor that Cassian had found, Dante, loomed over her in his beaked mask, tying a sling around her shoulder alarmingly tight and between her shoulder blades.

She made an involuntary noise of protest, which was cut off by Dante saying, “If you’re anything like this one.” He punctuated this with a rap of his staff across the back of Cassian’s shins before continuing, “Then I’m going to ensure that you don’t wreck that shoulder any more than you need to. One more thing. Someone calling himself Il Macchia said that he’d meet you at the Termae. If you need help again, you can find me by the city walls in the northeastern section.”

He then took his leave, muttering under his breath about impetuous young people and the cursed Borgia.

Jyn ran up to him, catching him by the sleeve.

“I’m sorry, Dottore, but what do you mean about the Borgia? What could they have to do with any of this?”

She could not see his expression, hidden as it was behind his mask, but she strongly suspected that it would be deeply contemptuous of her.

“The Borgia? You truly don’t know? Why don’t you take a look around Roma, then?”

As he left, she called out to him. “I cannot help you right now, Dottore, but I give you my word that should you ever need assistance, that I will be at your service.”

With Cassian’s assistance, they made their way into the streets, which Jyn estimated to be near Trastevere, but it was completely unlike the Trastevere of just a few weeks ago.

On the streets there was nothing but poverty, beggars and a rowdy group of Papal guards harassing anyone in their way. Jyn bristled at the sight of it, but was prevented from rushing into action by Cassian pulling her back towards him, apologising to the guards.

“No. No. We don’t want any trouble here! Come on. Come on.”

He gripped her hard by the waist as they kept walking, his fear betrayed by his actions.

“Look, Jyn, I know you want to help, but you were almost killed a few weeks ago. The time for action is in the future. For now, we need to find this Il Macchia fellow.” He cocked his head. “Do you know who he is?”

She shook her head.

Damn Steela and all her secrets!

“No, only that he was a spy for Steela and a great thorn in her side - she disagreed with most of his recommendations, so we tended to ignore his dispatches.”

Cassian looked at her sidelong.

“And now, you are responding to his every beck and call?”

She wheeled on his, heedless of the jarring pain in her shoulder.

“What do you propose instead? We have no coin, no support and no Guilds anymore. You came back to a broken Brotherhood.”

He took a deep breath, his anger abating and pulled her tighter.

“You’re alive, Jyn. That’s all I wanted.”

She smiled, tears pricking at the corners of her eyes.

“But at what cost, Cassian?”

 

--

 

The midday sun was blazing high in the sky when they found the blasted out ruins of the great Roman Termae, once owned by the Colonna family in the Middle Ages, but now part of the Castel Sant’Angelo complex, with an angry man standing out the front, his arms folded across this chest. This must be Il Macchia.

Jyn rolled her shoulder slightly, as far as the wrappings would allow and came to stand in front of the man. Next to her, Cassian tensed, ready to pounce if need be.

He gave a slow appraising look of Jyn and Cassian, his face a complete mask.

“Claudia Auditore,” he said slowly in a Florentine accent, his eyes lingering on her injured shoulder. “What a surprise to see you here. And that must be the foreign Master.”

Jyn frowned. “I thought you sent for us?” Surely Dante had not betrayed them - was this to be an ambush by the Papal forces?

The other man shook his head. “Never. I saw the fires of the Sanctuary for myself - they burned for almost a week before they put themselves out. I was certain that you were dead along with the others - the Pope himself was rumoured to be celebrating the destruction of the Brotherhood.”

“Not yet, regrettably, I am still alive,” Jyn replied, a black Roman grin on her face.

Beside her, Cassian called out, “Who in Hell’s blazes are you?”

The other man pulled up his sleeve to reveal a branded finger, before folding himself into a mocking bow. “My name is Niccolo Machiavelli, envoy from the Florentine Republic to the Papal States and -”

Jyn cut him off. “And an absolute thorn in Steela Gerrera’s side.”

Machiavelli raised an eyebrow. “I don’t wish to speak ill of the dead, Claudia Auditore, but if your master had taken more of a care to read my dispatches, Rodrigo Borgia would be dead and we would all still be relaxing in the comforts of the Sanctuary.”

“Enough,” Jyn said in a low voice, her posture tense enough that Cassian had seen fit to tap her on the back of the hand to bring her back to reality. From Machiavelli’s look, he clearly had not missed that either.

Much like Steela’s descriptions of him, Il Macchia was a dour, complicated man with very few compunctions about speaking his mind. How on God’s good earth this man had risen to become second chancellor of Firenze and then a diplomat in Rome, she would never know. According to those that had contact with him and from the few dispatches Jyn had read, he was a man who minced few words and went off to do whatever he pleased if no one listened to him. Which apparently, was happening here, right now.

She pinched her side lightly, bringing herself back to the present to what he was saying.

“- you would be wise to buy more equipment while you stay here - I doubt you’ll be able to survive long without supplies.”

He started leading them down a series of arch-covered steps, before Jyn grimaced and tapped the dagger on her hip.

“I have a set of blades. That should be enough.”

Machiavelli snorted and Cassian glared at him.

“We have no funds and very little idea of what is going on - if you can tell us what we are to expect, you would help us greatly.”

That comment got him a sharply arched brow in reply, before Machiavelli turned to Jyn.

“I had thought that you would be going to Spain with him.”

Not my daughter!

Jyn took a deep breath.

“How can I? There will be no peace until we can rise up against the Borgia family and the Templars that support them.”

“I did not recall such brave talk from your master when I went to beg her for aid against the Borgia.”

The Sanctuary on fire.

Shrieks from those still trapped inside.

Jyn closed her eyes, touching the dagger at her side for reassurance. When she opened her eyes, Cassian gave her a quick reassuring smile.

She looked at Machiavelli.

“I need to know what is happening - I swear to you that I will kill the pope and tear down every shred of power that the Templars have in this city. This I vow on the Creed.”

Another sardonic look from the Florentine. He still didn’t appear convinced.

She bit her tongue before deciding that there was not much left to lose.

“Very well then, let us talk openly. Rodrigo surrounds himself with snakes and murderers. His daughter Lucrezia has been sharpened into one of his most deadly weapons - she has been married twice now, the first ending when she accused him of impotence.”

Jyn nodded. “I remember that - it was quite the scandal.”

“Indeed. Giovanni Sforza accused her of incest, the Pope said that she was still a virgin and somehow she was still pregnant while awaiting the divorce. Her second husband was attacked on the steps of St Peter’s Basilica last year but his recovery conveniently occured in the Borgia apartments where he was strangled a month later.”

Next to her, Cassian’s lips tightened. She understood why. This web of politics would be difficult to unravel without blowing the little support they still had within the city.

Machiavelli’s voice changed. “But she is nothing compared to the man who led the Sanctuary attack. He is vicious and ambitious beyond all measure. It is said that he killed his own brother to gain his current position as Captain of the Papal Guard. He knows no danger or fatigue. The Orsini and Colonna families have been forced to acknowledge his power and the King of France himself stands as his ally. It is said that he will never rest until he has all of Italia under his control.”

Jyn stood there, her mouth dry.

The man in black on the horse.

As though in a dream, she could hear Cassian snorting contemptuously. “You sound as though you admire him.”

“He knows how to exercise his will. He understands better than most that everything is permitted. He could make a good assassin -”

Finally, Jyn managed to regain her voice.

“Give me his name.”

“Cesare Borgia.”

She pushed her grief down and turned back to the task at hand.

“There was a man in white with him as well - I saw him years ago at the Templar meeting in Venezia.”

Machiavelli’s brow furrowed.

“That would be Orson Krennic, archbishop and head of the Templar faction in hunt of the Apple.”

Jyn started turning the information he had given her about in her mind.

“Does that mean that they have control of the Apple yet?”

Cassian stiffened and asked a question of his own.

“If we don’t know where it is, we can’t do anything about it. I want to know something else. You said that the Orsini and Colonna families had been forced to swear loyalty to him.”

Machiavelli nodded, his eyes glittering. She could understand why. Making those families swear any sort of loyalty to a pope was an act not even Christ himself would have been able to achieve.

She gave him a brilliant Roman smirk.

“I highly doubt they’ll be merely sitting in wait. Can you get me any sort of support from them or guarantee that they will not harm us or get in our way?”

The Florentine merely gave her a courtier’s shrug.

“I don’t think you’ll be able to convince them of anything, but perhaps we can get some degree of support from them.”

Jyn bit her lip while Cassian spoke from beside her.

“We’re going to need a lot of money to rebuild the Brotherhood. Do you know of any major enemies with not much to lose and a lot of cash to spare?”

Machiavelli looked straight at Cassian.

“Is that how you rebuilt the Spanish Brotherhood?”

Cassian gave him a similarly insincere shrug. She had to bite her tongue to repress a laugh. Machiavelli may have had a mask-like face, but he had clearly met his match in Cassian.

“The Spanish Brotherhood was rebuilt with a great deal of support from both the people and a good deal of blackmailing those in power for money.”

She rolled her shoulder and sighed, interrupting them before they could argue politics until the sun finally set over the Tevere.

“Niccolo. We need the name of a wealthy cardinal with nothing to lose. And access to your spy network. And a banker that you can trust.”

Machiavelli raised his eyebrows.

“That’s rather blunt.”

“And I don’t have the energy for these games, Niccolo. If we’re to retake Roma, we’ll need lots of money and eyes in the Papal Court. The banker is to get things started for the time being. You’re the only one that can get us both.”

“The Borgia seized all of Steela Gerrera’s assets.”

Jyn laughed, Cassian explaining quickly, before another verbal duel could begin, “We have access to the Brotherhood’s secret accounts -”

“I have ideas that will require immediate funding, Il Macchia. Let me take care of that.”

His dour face darkened even more and he took a quick look around them.

“If you’re serious about this, I have an idea for a place that you can use for a hideout.”

 

--

 

He led Cassian to an old worn-out storehouse on Isola Tiberina, while Jyn was taken to a small bank just as it was closing to start opening and activating the secret accounts, before she took an underground passage to use another tunnel into the storehouse proper.

The building had mostly been deserted, with rooms left to spiders and dust - but she found a room that had clearly been furnished as an office, with thick rugs. Cassian was waiting for her in there, a warm fire blazing merrily in a fireplace as she gingerly lowered herself into a soft chair which called her after a long day.

Shortly after arriving, there was a knock on one of the buildings that were actually secretly part of the greater warehouse. Machiavelli gave an answering knock before opening the door.

The moment that he saw the Papal Guard uniform, Cassian tensed and unsheathed his hidden blade, and Jyn loosened her dagger in its sheath, but the helmet came off and the man underneath smiled.

“Madonna Claudia! An honour! And this must be ser Cassian! Fabio Orsini, at your service.”

Jyn smiled at Machiavelli, mouthing the words “thank you” at him.

She turned her attention back to the young Orsini. “Were you not married to a Borgia? Or was the Roman gossip inaccurate?”

Cassian remained tense from his post at the wall, his blade still unsheathed and ready.

Fabio smiled again. “She’s not as tainted as the rest of her family, or so I thought. I ended up having to rescue a dear friend of my family from the Tor di Nona, and I had enough.”

“What does your wife know of this?” Cassian asked, his voice still tinged with suspicion.

He shrugged. “Still thinks that I’m a loyal dog. I thank God every day that I never managed to spawn any more Borgia.”

Machiavelli stepped forward.

“Fabio has agreed to lend us the use of his warehouses on Isola Tiberina.”

The aforementioned Fabio spat on the ground. “My way of fighting back against my beloved commander Cesare. Give him hell, the two of you.”

Jyn’s eyes flicked around at the greater area of the building.

“May I do with it as I please?”

A shrug.

“Whatever you wish. I refuse to kneel to him any more than I need to - all I ask is that once the bastards are dead, that I be able to make this a storehouse again.”

He turned to Machiavelli.

“Here’s the reports you asked for. Not that it means much anymore - we’re being shipped out to the Romagna. For now, he still commands us, but I’m still fighting back. Wish me bad luck.”

Machiavelli saw both of them out and Cassian and Jyn were finally left alone in the great warehouse.

She slumped back into the chair, completely drained by the events of the day, barely finding the strength to lift the bottle of wine that Machiavelli had left on the desk, tilting it towards Cassian.

“To the Creed. May the Borgia never rest in peace.”

 

--

 

A few days later, Jyn’s restlessness had grown to such a degree while Cassian was off discussing something with Machiavelli that she felt compelled to leave the stifling confines of the base.

It was only after Jyn left the warehouse that she realised that she had no idea what she was doing or where even to go. Cassian had murmured that he’d be finding a few of his contacts in Roma, before they met back at his lodgings and she was suddenly left with time to spare.  

There was next to no coin in her purse, she had no support outside of Il Macchia and all his wily games, she didn’t know where to find the Thieves’ Guild and they had lost all of their intelligence network -

Someone brushed against her as she walked through the crowds in Trastevere, her shoulder jarring painfully, before they disappeared into the crowd.

Jyn knew how to recognise a thief when she saw one and she realised that her meagre purse had just been lifted - and not even by a good one.

She took a deep breath, pulling the last dregs of her energy together and started running through the crowd, shouting, “Thief! Give me back my money!” She wouldn’t be able to climb in her injured state, but her legs were still strong and she could keep pace with him easily.

She let her Eagle go free and a sudden flicker of golden light appeared just before her, and she started shoving people out of her way, ducking down into an alleyway, as the thief stood at the dead end, trapped and not even taking advantages of the crates around them.

Jyn sighed. He was clearly barely an amateur. Probably someone who had been pushed into it by desperation.

She drew Cassian’s Toledo dagger and pressed it into his neck before either one of them realised what was happening.

“Why did you take my money?”

“Madonna, please! Please! My wife is sick and with child and we have no money! I didn’t know what else to do! Please don’t kill me - I’m all she has!”

Jyn sheathed her dagger, standing up, with the man lying whimpering on the dirty cobblestones before following suit.

“There is a doctor in Roma, northeast of here and close to the city walls. He is hunted by the Borgia, but he can treat your wife.”

The man almost started shaking, before Jyn nodded at him, flashing the sigil on her necklace.

“My name is Claudia Auditore of the Assassins’ Brotherhood. Now get out of here before I regret sparing your life.”

“I will, Madonna! Thank you!”

He ran back into the grounds, darting away with a manic grin on his face and a spring in his step.

She felt her lips curl up in a small smile. A small smile for a small victory - but if she could be like the Medici - use those small victories to build a network of people loyal and indebted to her, the Brotherhood might be able to stand a chance at opposing the Templars.

Chapter Text

Jyn sat still at the desk in the office, with a pile of parchment and a quill, her head starting to spin with numbers.

Across the room, Cassian leaned against the wall, his lips pursed. Damn, they’d need to get some more furniture before he threw out his back sleeping on the floor. Food as well. And maybe a stable?

She brought her mind back to the present concerns.

“We need to get the finances together - did Machiavelli give you the name of his banker yet?”

She nodded, chewing on her lip and rapping the knuckles of her good hand on the desk.

“I started opening the accounts - hopefully the other accountants survived - if they did, they’ll come running the moment they realise I’m using the Assassin funds. How did the hunt for a new brothel go?”

Cassian gently banged the back of his head against the wall in a rhythmic pattern. Jyn resisted the urge to laugh at the sight of it.

“Am I to assume that it didn’t go well?”

He laughed, a bitter little thing.

“It’s in the perfect location, close enough to the Vatican that we’d be able to get a good range of high-ranking clientele and enough of a cash-flow for it.”

Jyn raised an eyebrow.

“What’s the problem with it?”

He huffed a moment.

“The madam is utterly lazy and refused to meet with us - she cares more for parties and fancy clothes than about actually helping us with anything.”

She mechanically rolled her shoulder, in want of something to do.

“Did Machiavelli get us the names of any potential financial supporters? I know that della Rovere and d’Amboise would be chomping at the bit to get any sort of leverage over the Borgia.”

Another shake of his head. Jyn sighed, her head beginning to ache with all of the considerations. They’d also need to find and train novices before long as well - two assassins and a spy would only be able to do so much.

“Would my speaking with the madam do anything to help matters, or is she too stubborn to be reasoned with?”

At that, Cassian’s eyes lingered on her sling, giving her a sidelong glare.

“I dare say that she’s not quite as stubborn as you. In any case, I might reach out to the Spanish Brotherhood and see if they’ll help us.”

Wait, what?

Was he going back to Spain?

Why?

She pursed her lips, pushing it into her mind.

Very well, then - a week. She’d give herself that long to heal before she went in search of the brothel.

She got out of the seat and grabbed her coat and tucking her hair under a cap, Cassian almost immediately taking the chair. She really did need to buy some more furniture before he injured himself.

It was straight over to the bank for her, with a banker swiftly ushering her over to a back room the moment she mentioned Machiavelli’s name.

He seemed utterly perplexed by her request.

“Madonna, I don’t understand how these accounts work  - I’ve never heard of any accounts like this before.”

She turned on the charm, channeling all of Cassian’s easy familiarity with people.

“I’m not surprised - if my banker was able to survive, he’ll contact you the moment that the accounts are used in earnest and things will go easier. For now, all I’m going to need is some pin money, which means that we’ll need to channel it through a shell account.”

“But how can I keep all of this off the books?”

All of Steela’s lessons in the fine art of shell accounts and secret transactions came flowing back through her - the training in the Florentine banks that she’d insisted upon.

As much as I hate to admit it, Claudia, money is truly what makes the world turn - you’ll need to understand it well to truly fight the Templars.

She shoved it all down, back and deep into the cave of her mind and started talking him through the details of what she needed. Steela had always had the more delicate aspects of the accounts run through their banker Matteo and Leia, who had always been better with the finer points of finance, but for now, all that was available was Jyn.

Another three hours of roaming the city later, she was able to find a carpenter that was both open and willing to do quality work for her on the cheap. It drained almost all of the pocket money that she’d taken from the accounts, but she now had a bed, another desk, some decent chairs and a weapon rack - not much, but hopefully it would be enough to set up a comfortable room for the two of them.

After a quick bout of haggling, she managed to browbeat him into delivering it to the warehouse of Isola Tiberina.

She stepped out into the Roman sunshine, enjoying the feel of it on her face, before turning to look at the Borgia guard tower. Her eyes narrowed and she chewed her lip.

Maps.

She’d need them, and detailed ones too.

Run a hand through her hair.

Cartographers were utterly rare in Roma nowadays and she had never been particularly adept at any of that - hopefully Cassian would be able to help.

If he would even be around in Italia for long enough to help.

Jyn pushed the heels of her hands into her eyes, furiously willing her tears back. What use was an assassin with no support outside of an annoying Florentine and her absent foreign lover?

She gave a short, angry yell.

A few people walking past her gave her sidelong looks, probably wondering at what the strange woman was doing. At least she still retained enough presence of mind to still be objective enough and not have a breakdown in front of half of Roma.

When you feel awful like this, sometimes - sometimes, it becomes necessary to just fight it out of you.

She’d had always loved those days, running and fighting with the other Assassins.

The laughter of everyone else in the base back in the day.

She needed to get it out somehow.

Jyn started running back to the warehouse.

 

--

 

“Are you alright? You really shouldn’t be climbing around Roma with that arm.”

Cassian looked at her in what almost looked like alarm when she ran through the open door. She understood why - her hair was an absolute travesty, she was sweating and breathing heavily and she looked as though she wanted to beat up half of Roma itself.

Jyn looked at him, her eyes wild.

“I’m perfectly fine - you don’t need to treat me as though I’m an invalid just for wanting to stretch my legs a moment.”

His hands froze where they rested on the desk.

“Is it so awful that I don’t want to see you hurt?”

He licked his lips carefully, getting their small pile of bandages out. Jyn held herself stiffly as he came over, holding his out in an aborted gesture that looked as though he were asking permission.

A tense nod in reply.

“You don’t need to act as my mother, Cassian! I’m capable of looking after myself!”

Not my daughter!

“Jyn, I understand that you want to retake Roma, but maybe you need to rest a little.”

She arched an eyebrow.

“As you have, in the dozens of years that you , son of Spain, have rested on your laurels?”

Something dark flickered over his face.

“I am not saying anything about that. I am saying that Roma needs an Assassin fighting for her, who is capable of fighting.”

She stared him dead in the face and his hands froze on her skin.

“Were you anyone else, Cassian Jeron Andor, I would challenge you to a duel for my honour. But alas, there is no point in that, seeing as though neither of us has much honour left.”

“I do not want you to misunderstand my point, I just -”

“Think that I’m an angry woman running around Roma with no plan. Why don’t you hit me, then?”

His lips tightened.

“Jyn - I afraid of hurting you.”

“Hurting me ? I am an Assassin, same as you, black and silver on my sash. You really think that a few weeks and an injury will have dulled my skills to those of a civilian?"

His eyes were very cold when Jyn stared him dead in the face.

“Courtyard, then, if that’s what you want.”

 

--

 

He circled her, his fists balled tightly.

“Fists or steel?”

Jyn yanked the cap off her head, letting her hair fall out. Loose hair might be a hazard while fighting, but that was no matter for the moment.

“Fists. There’s no need to draw blood from either of us.”

He cast a skeptical look over her shoulder before her mind blanked out.

Rush him, grabbing him tightly around the waist, attempting to bowl him over, while her shoulder screamed .

A pained grunt.

He grabbed her elbow, pushing her away from him.

Elbow him with her free arm.

Duck under his outstretched arm and sweep her leg under his.

He fell to the ground, looking up at her, stunned.

Plant her knee on his chest, cocking her head.

“Do you yield yet?”

He suddenly smirked and grabbed her by the waist, slamming her to the ground and rolling over her.

The scar at his mouth twitched into a grin.

“Do you yield yet?”

Reach up and grab him, pulling his mouth to her.

His mouth opened under hers, the world narrowing to just the two of them and she pulls herself to closer to him.

She almost moaned at the feeling of him pressed so close against her, the muscles of his chest jumping against his skin.

It’s too much and altogether not enough and she reached up with one hand to start pulling at the ties on his trousers, as she tore herself away from the kiss.

“Is this alright?”

Cassian’s eyes were heavy-lidded and his mouth was swollen, but he looked down at her face, gently, as though she were a work of art, before sighing.

“Yes - but, your arm -”

Jyn grinned and flipped them over, pressing herself close to him again.

“You don’t think we can work around that?”

He lets out a brief laugh, before pulling Jyn down and then all she can think is oh .  

 

--

 

It’s later, when they were finally wrapped each other on their tiny pallet bed, his fingers carding lightly through her hair, that something finally occurred to her.

“Why are you still here?”

“What do you mean by that?”

She rested her head lighting on his chest, poking him with a finger.

“Why would you come back to Italia?”

“I don’t understand what you mean - I’m here now.”

She pursed her lips, trying to work out how to phrase the words right.

“Why would you come back?"

Cassian’s face twisted in confusion and he moved forward to grab her shoulders, one hand cupping her face. She resisted the urge to lean into it, no matter how comforting it felt.

She kept going.

“You had everything to stay for in Spain -”

He cut her off and smiled.

“But I didn’t have you.”

 

--

 

When Jyn woke up next, they were still curled around each other on the floor and her shoulder was screaming at her in agony.

She sighed and checked the bandages - yes, there it was.

Their escapades last night had definitely torn open at least a few of Dante’s careful stitches.

She groaned, waking Cassian up, and pulling herself upright.

They quietly went out into the streets, stealing themselves a pair of horses, riding north to the city walls and their doctor, Dante.

“What did you even do in the last two weeks? Did you start a massacre?” he demanded.

Cassian snorted from next to her before she shot him a glare that would break glass.

Dante kept going with his tirade. “And was it necessary to rip your arm from your shoulder with these activities?”

He kept going, rubbing salve all over her abused muscles and stitching the reopened wound back up.

They were prevented from answering by a heavy knock on the door, which one of the other patients answered.

“Borgia!”

Everyone in the room stiffened at the shrill cry before the others in the room started running, tripping over each other in their rush to get out.

Cassian gave Jyn a sharp nod over Dante’s masked head, as they saw him lose all colour through the plague mask he wore.

She reacted quickly, shoving him under a table, throwing a cloth over the table.

In the corner of her vision, she could see Cassian grabbing a roll of bandages, unravelling them.

No sooner had they set up their cover then a Papal Guard in their bright red uniform burst into the room, eyeing Cassian.

“Are you the doctor here?”

Jyn forced herself to slacken as Cassian pressed the wad of bandages harder into her injury. If this did come to a fight, they’d need both of them to be in reasonable condition.

“And if I were?” he asked, emphasising his foreign accent.

The guard waved in a handful more, filling the room.

The tension only grew.

“Then you are under arrest and must come with me.”

Jyn quietly reached for where her hidden blade was, inconspicuously fastening it.

Cassian started speaking again in a deceptively neutral tone. “Are you sure this cannot wait for a more opportune moment? And do I even look like a doctor? Look, here, idiot. This boy here barely survived some sort of magic fire from a mercenary’s hand, and I have no idea where the doctor’s run off to!"

He tied a bandage tightly around her shoulder, shooting her a sharp glare when she let out an involuntary gasp at the pain.

The guard’s eyes narrowed and a pair of men went to flank Jyn in the tiny room.

“If this boy was shot by one of Ser Borgia’s men, then he must have been a member of the cult he destroyed a month ago - either in Roma itself or out at Forli. He’ll be coming with us now.”

Porco puttana ,” Jyn murmured under her breath, nodding at Cassian.

“You think you can stand up to the Borgia?”

In the flash of a moment, she grabbed the closest guard’s shoulder, stabbing him deep in the chest, with her hidden blade.

Reach down with her other hand and throw her knife.

Watch it land home in the throat of the other guard on her other side.

In the meantime, Cassian was lowering Guard captain to the floor.

She looked over just to hear his gurgling last words.

“You cannot stand up to the might of the Borgia.”

Jyn walked over, sheathing her hidden blade and retrieving her dagger.

“I can and I will stand up to the Borgia. And I intend to. Requiescat in pace.

Silence hung in the empty room for a long, loaded moment, while Cassian threw open the door to the main room.

From the gap in the door, she could see that it was completely empty. Trust Romans to always look after themselves first.

With her good hand, she pulled off the tablecloth and Dante struggled out from underneath, trying to hold himself on legs that were shaking more than a newborn colt’s.

“Does this place have a back door?” she heard Cassian asking.

She looked up in complete alarm. “Cassian! We can’t just drag dead bodies out of the back door without being noticed!”

Turn over to Dante.

“Do you have shrouds here?”

He looked completely confused at what was going on.

In complete frustration, Jyn ripped the plague doctor mask off his face and slapped him.

“We’re trying to get you out alive, but you have to help us! Do you have shrouds and a back door?”

He seemed to come to his senses, his eyes focusing on the bodies.

“I do have shrouds and a back door.”

Between the three of them, they managed to strip the corpses of any weaponry and money, which Cassian pocketed and hefted the bodies out.

Jyn let out a sigh - they were too far from the Tevere to make this unnoticeable, but they found an empty corral and dumped the bodies into troughs of manure, the long process making Jyn’s shoulder ache even more.

By the end, Cassian was holding her up, almost carrying her.

Dante was left in almost a state of apoplexy, actually wringing his hands.

“I don’t know how to thank you two - you stayed to help me when everyone else ran to save their own lives.”

Jyn chewed on her lips, her eyes flicking over to Cassian before he nodded in silent assent.

“If you need another place to hide from the Borgia, we might be able to help. And the clientele you would receive there would help you instead of fleeing."

That was a bit of a stretch, given that they were apparently the only two active Assassins operating out of Roma, but at least it was a start.

Dante looked at them, his eyes wide and darting between the two of them.

“If you could do that, I would be forever indebted.”

Cassian smiled, before turning back to the path that would take them to Isola Tiberina.

“Why don’t you come with us then?”

 

--

 

It was evening by the time they were able to get Dante settled in one of the empty storefronts of the warehouse, giving him the last of their funds to get himself sorted out and reestablish his clientele.

They had scarcely returned to the central building when a long shadow appeared in the open doorway.

She wearily pulled herself to her feet.

With a silent flicker, she could see Cassian unsheathing his hidden blade and she followed suit.

A voice called out.

“Maestra!”

Jyn blinked and wheeled around.

“Luke? You’re alive?” she asked, stunned as Luke ran up to her, pulling her into a tight hug.

He grinned shakily at her, his hands betraying his nerves and fears. “I had thought the worst and I almost didn’t make it out of the Sanctuary, but I had help. It was almost a miracle from God himself!”

Cassian by this point had sheathed his weapons and was leaning against a wall.

“Help?” he asked, suspicious of this stranger’s motives.

Luke grinned back. “Maestra, Leia heard rumours that you’d been needing a brothel for intelligence purposes if you were to rebuild the brotherhood properly.”

Jyn’s eyes narrowed.

What had Leia done?

“Leia was sent to apprentice in another brothel a few weeks before the attack - we’ve taken it over and the girls there are working for us now.”

He handed a bag to her.

“The takings from the last week - Leia said you’d likely need them. Anything you need, you come to La Rosa Negra. She’ll get you whatever you need.”

Jyn looked over at Cassian, shrugging her shoulder.

Cassian spoke from his corner. “And you?”

Luke shrugged. “I want to finish my apprenticeship and the other masters are dead.”

Jyn sighed, completely overwhelmed by the events of the day.

“Looks like we’ve got everything we need for a Brotherhood now. A doctor, a brothel and an apprentice.”

Cassian grinned, saluting her.

“Here’s to a fruitful partnership, then.”

Chapter Text

The Rosa Negra brothel had new gardens growing on the window boxes and plush red drapes (precisely the same shade of the Brotherhood’s sashes, Jyn noted - if there was any doubt that Leia wasn’t running this brothel, this dispelled it) that anyone looking up could notice.

A host of courtesans lingered in the gardens, some fanning themselves, another one casting a sideways look towards the street so lascivious that at least three men and a woman took a second look. One walked up to Cassian, her corset conveniently falling open to reveal a single large breast and she felt his arm tighten around her waist.

Inside, the brothel was almost completely empty, save for the moans of pleasure echoing around them and a single courtesan with a priest’s head nestled between her legs.

Jyn consciously averted her eyes and bit her lip, trying not to look over at Cassian.

She flashed her ring at the girl working the front desk, saying, “We’re here to meet with the mistress of this brothel. Can you show us to her?”

The girl dropped the simpering appearance, pointing to a discreet doorway hidden in the panelling, which she pushed open to reveal a flight of steep stairs.

Jyn shrugged as best she could with her bad shoulder, leading her way up them into a well-appointed office, so close to Steela’s that it made her heart ache.

At the desk, instead of Steela’s comforting and familiar appearance, was a girl with tightly braided hair and a barely concealed red sash at her waist.

“Leia!”

Leia lifted her head from what looked like a set of heavy ledgers, before smiling at the sight of Jyn and Cassian, both clearly armed to the teeth, gesturing them to a seat.

“Welcome to La Rosa Negra. How do you like what I’ve done with the place?”

Jyn let out a bright little laugh.

“How on earth did you wind up here?”

A shrug in reply.

Cassian started to stiffen, all his suspicions aroused.

Leia reached behind the desk and Jyn raced to defuse the situation before someone wound up dead on the plush rugs.

“It’s been a very long few months, Leia - I’d appreciate it if we could be as blunt as possible with one another. Why don’t you start by telling me how you managed to take over this place?”

Leia shrugged.

“Some of the girls found me and hid me when the Sanctuary started burning. When I found the madam being killed while I was out at the docks - none of the other girls could read and one thing led to another.”

For a moment, all of them sat in stillness as they took in the information.

Jyn grinned.

“You know, when Steela said that you could be an incredible administrator one day, I don’t think she ever imagined that you’d one day be running a brothel.”

Another nonchalant shrug in reply.

“It was necessary. And besides, I’ve found out a lot of information lately - mostly concerning a pair of Assassins that are starting to make themselves a nuisance to the Papal Guards in Trastavere.”

Jyn made a face.

“We didn’t mean to do any of that - but we just wanted to know if you’d still want to support us. I’m not Steela and I don’t intend to replace her, but I do want the Borgia dead. What say you?”

A sharp nod in reply.

Clearly, Leia was decisive as she had ever been under Steela’s tutelage.

Cassian was starting to grow restless next to her.

“What news have you heard of the Borgia?”

Jyn saw Leia’s face start to twist into a mischievous smirk. She sighed and cut her off.

“Leia, I was serious when I said that we were utterly exhausted. Can you cut the games? We can give you protection and support in exchange for anything to tell us.”

Leia glared at Jyn over the broad desk.

“Are you really questioning my commitment to the Creed? I swore the same oaths as you - whatever you want, you’ll get. Nothing needed in return - we’re doing pretty damn well here, wouldn’t you say?”

Twin relieved grins broke out over Jyn and Cassian’s faces.

“What can you tell us, Leia?”

Leia pulled a set of papers out from a locked drawer in her desk, spreading them out on their table.

“The information you want. Cesare Borgia is busily rampaging around the Romagna - rumour has it that Saw Gerrera has been putting up a powerful resistance to him.”

Cassian reached over, placing his hand on Jyn’s thigh, squeezing gently.

She rested her hand on his own, a silent signal of acknowledgement.

Cassian spoke again.

“Have you heard any rumours of something called an Apple?”

Leia’s brow furrowed.

“No, I’ve not heard of that - does it have anything to do with the Seal that Steela was studying?”

Cassian’s hand squeezed her thigh again when he felt her tense under his palm.

Jyn bit her lip.

“Two more things - do you know of how the other Brotherhoods are doing?”

A rustling of the papers.

“Rumour has it that the Doge has started taking meetings with the Pope - he appears to be caving.”

Merda! Cassian’s assassination of the Doge all those years ago had amounted to not very much at the end of the day.

Leia seemed intrigued by their reactions.

“Do you intend to assassinate the Doge?”

Next to her, Cassian remained nonchalant in his seat. Only Jyn could tell the effort it took him to remain looking unruffled by the news.

“We will discuss this matter between us in the future?”

Leia turned to Jyn.

“Why are you both so suspicious all of a sudden? You were never like this when Steela was still around.”

How dare she say this! From her pleasant viewing spot in her comfortable brothel, while Jyn had been on the ground, fighting to protect and rebuild what was left of the Brotherhood.

Another warning squeeze of her thigh.

Jyn forced her muscles to relax.

“That’s not important, Leia. What’s more important for us now is how well we can work together. I can have the Doge taken care of, but I need to know whether the other Brotherhoods can help us. Machiavelli cannot get in contact with them.”

Leia sighed.

“The surviving members of the Florentine Brotherhood are prancing around the Romagna with Saw.”

“And the Venetian?”

“Almost entirely destroyed, from what I can tell. Cesare stamped out their number quite efficiently.”

Jyn inhaled sharply and Cassian ran a hand over his face.

They had hoped so much for aid from the other Brotherhoods, but it would appear that none would be forthcoming.

Another question from Leia.

“You said that you had another question for me?”

A rap of her fingers across the back of Cassian’s hand.

A terrible habit that she had never quite managed to break.

She took a deep breath.

“I wanted to know of the whereabouts of Bodhi Rook. I found his studio completely empty when I went by it. Do you know where he’s gone off to?”

Leia sighed.

“We’ve heard nothing of his whereabouts. I’m so sorry, Jyn.”

Jyn waved off Leia’s concern, maintaining her strong and nonchalant face.

“It’s no great matter. We’ll find him in the end. But for now, we’ll be glad to have your support against the Borgia.”

“One last thing, Jyn - if you want to help me out and make yourself more of a nuisance to the Borgia, there’s a man called Malfatto who’s supposedly a doctor that’s been killing courtesans around the city.”

She nodded.

If this was the price for her help and her brothel, Jyn would pay it.

 

--

 

They went out in the sunlight, clambering up to the rooftops before Cassian finally deemed it quiet and safe enough to speak.

They stared out at the sun glinting off the Basilica together in silence.

He turned to her.

“Do you want me to go to Venezia? Luke is far too inexperienced and someone needs to deal with his Malfatto.”

Jyn’s lips tightened a moment.

“Is it so selfish to ask you to stay with me?”

A brief laugh in reply, before he stretched out a hand to cup her cheek. She relaxed into his touch.

“I want to stay so much, but the Creed has always come first. For both of us.”

She breathed in, revelling in how close he was.

“Go to Venezia. As long as it takes. Kill the Doge - as obvious as possible and as dramatically as possible.”

“And Malfatto?”

She couldn’t hold back a smile.

“I’m not still the initiate you met all those years ago. I’d like to think that I can handle myself, you know.”

He laughed at that.

Jyn gestured with her chin at the ledge.

“Are you going to stare at me all day or are you going to Venezia any time this year?”

Another laugh.

Oh how she had missed this easiness between them.

He nodded, taking a deep breath before he went to stand at the edge of the building, ready to jump.

She called out to him.

“Are you with me, Cassian?”

He smiled.

“All the way.”

A brief flicker of his white coat before he leapt off the edge.

 

--

 

Jyn headed quickly back to the brothel with Luke, leaving him on the rooftop, after Cassian had gone, pulling aside a girl to ask how she could find Malfatto, with the courtesan shaking the moment that she heard the name.

“The monster! Malfatto!”

She nodded.

“I need to know how to find him - have you seen him before?”

The girl started shaking before she could speak again.

Jyn murmured quietly. “He cannot appreciate that you are human. Too many people think that courtesans are only things to be bought.”

“The Spaniard saying that slavery is good isn’t helping matters either,” the courtesan was sobbing.

Jyn pulled her away, looking her dead in the eyes.

“I’m going to kill Malfatto, but I need to find him first.”

She gave the courtesan a little shake.

“Where can I find him.”

The courtesan bowed her head. “Thank you - all the courtesans of Roma know that you will defend us. Malfatto is a doctor with a beaked mask shorter than most.”

She kept describing him, Jyn taking the details in as she did so. Clearly the girl had seen him before, and Jyn tensed up as she imagined how .

“If you ever need refuge at any time, you can find it at Isola Tiberina.”

The girl wiped her eyes.

“You have my thanks, Madonna. But I think that the Madonna here will look after us.”

Jyn only gave a nod, pulling her hood over her face again and running into the street, nodding to Luke where he was perched on a rooftop.

He dropped down in front of her with a light thump, before she gave the description of him, handing him a white handkerchief from her coat as he paled.

“Follow the Creed and find Malfatto. This is your first test.”

He gave a shaky nod and started climbing back up to the rooftops.

Jyn groaned, rubbing her shoulder and letting her Eagle see, following the traces of gold marking Luke’s position.

She’d definitely need to teach him a few lessons in unseen movement soon.

They found Malfatto at the end of the street by a doctor’s stand, Luke waiting for the right moment on the rooftop above him, looking down at where she stood still.

“Requiescat in pace,” she whispered, raising her hand above her head.

Around them, the world stood still for a moment as Luke leapt and descended, his hidden blade punching through the doctor’s clothes, Jyn noting his skill.

She turned to move back through the crowds as they melted like spring mist, screaming and running, as Luke stood tall amidst the carnage, with his hood down.

Jyn turned to glare at him.

What was he doing?

“No one should treat people like objects! No one should take away our right to fight back! The Liberation of Roma has begun!”

Jyn blinked for a moment before she turned and blended into the crowd as Luke took to the rooftops for his escape.

Clearly Leia’s fire was not exclusive to her alone.

 

--

 

Over the next few weeks, Jyn took care to spend time out on the streets, Jyn’s arm having healed enough that she was able to take the sling off.

She did not stay on the streets as an Assassin, but merely as the cheerful face of someone that wanted to help. Should someone be having difficulties corralling their children, she’d happily entertain them, teaching tricks she had learned years ago for sleight of hand.

If someone stole a purse, she would chase after them and bring it back to its rightful owner.

If someone was arguing with another person, Jyn would step in and mediate the argument for them.

All free of charge, absolutely no costs demanded, all done with a bright smile and care taken to show the sigil on her ring.

 

--

 

It was a few days later when Jyn finally managed to find herself a thief of decent talent.

It had been during her wanderings on the western side of the Tevere that she had found a baker who was willing to pay someone to make deliveries across the city for him. Disguised in her boy’s clothes, it provided the perfect excuse for her to wander the city and to supplement their meager savings.

The flicker of a coat vanished into the distance around a corner.

As light as a panther, he clambered up and his robes vanished with barely a whisper as he climbed up.

The thief went steadily east, crossing the river before turning south. Their movements reminded Jyn almost of the thieves that she had seen in Venezia all those years ago.

Hopefully whoever it was could tell her what was happening and give her a chance at rebuilding her underground network.

She stepped forward, out of the shadows, not bothering to hide herself anymore.

The man they had been chasing came out of the darkness and a voice she knew well spoke. The rustle of clothing around them suggested that they were all in full view of at least a dozen thieves.

“Well met, Jyn Erso!” he said, with a soft chuckle.

“Chirrut La Volpe!” she called back. “I thought that Venezia was your preferred prowl.”

A shrug of his shoulders. “Baze was not fond of the smell and the opportunities were far better here, anyway. There is far more money here now.”

Chirrut grinned at her in the moonlight. “And to whom should I give my happy congratulations to?”

She cocked her head, utterly confused.

A hand stretched out, to point unerringly at her necklace.

“Is there a particular reason that you wear a man’s ring around your neck? If I knew any better, I’d say that you were essentially married.”

Jyn flushed so red, she was sure that even a blind man could see.

Chirrut gave an overdramatic sigh.

“Oh, to be young and oblivious again.” He turned to the big mercenary. “Don’t you remember those days for us.”

There was no response from Baze.

He suddenly changed tack, his entire relaxed demeanour shifting.

“Why are you here, Jyn Erso?”

She nodded at the shadows, at the thieves that were undoubtedly lurking there.

“You want to put our spy network to use.”

Jyn nodded.

“Paola in Venezia and Steela always said that your spies were the best in Italia.”

His normally bright smile faded for a second, before he cocked his head at her.

The mercenary spoke for a moment, his voice low and gravelly.

“You are working with Machiavelli?”

“He is the only option at having a high-level spy in the Papal Court,” she said, with no degree of reluctance in her voice.

Chirrut pointed a finger at her necklace again.

“Describe him for me. Your young man. Does he have the face of a killer?”

Jyn’s brow furrowed. What could that do anything - they just needed access to the Thieves’ Guild.

Baze looked directly at her, his face completely impassive, as if it had been made of stone.

At long last, she nodded and said to Chirrut, “He has the face of a friend.”

Chirrut nodded his head at the faces that were coming out of the shadows. “These are the Thieves’ Guild. We’ll bring you whatever we get on - was it Isola Tiberina you were based out of now?”

“Do you have a particular plan?” she asked.

He turned his blind eyes on the abandoned building next to them. “We had plans to repair this. What do you think could attract the Borgia but be beyond suspicion?”

Jyn bit her lip.

“Maybe an inn?”

Chirrut grinned. “I do quite like that idea. And Baze has been wanting a break for a while.”

This would drain the last of her scudi for a good long while. She sighed, resigned to the fact.

“If the Borgia come, make sure they lose all their money.”

A bright laugh from Chirrut.

“We’ll make sure of it - anything we hear about, we’ll bring it to you directly.”

He smiled and the two of them melted back into the shadows.

Jyn shook her head, still bemused by the audacity of the thieves.

It was a long ride back to Isola Tiberina.

Chapter Text

News trickled in slowly from Venezia, telling of complete chaos - from what rumours she could hear, they told of a terrible party, poisoned wine and a white-hooded devil climbing a mountain of corpses to reach the dying Doge.

In other words, exactly what she had asked Cassian to achieve.

The man truly did have a flair for the dramatic when it came to assassinations - although in his letter to her, he did downplay the utter confusion of the scene he had created.

In the meantime, she had more pressing issues in front of her. Namely, an irritated and dour Florentine diplomat.

How the hell this man managed to become second chancellor to Firenze was completely beyond her. But, Tuscans could be odd like that.

She turned her eyes back to him, resisting the urge to stab him.

“ - Do the two of you even know the meaning of subtlety? You sent your lover -”

“- Actually, he sent himself -”

“That’s not important - you sent an Assassin to publicly murder the Doge in broad daylight, causing complete and utter chaos in the city -”

“Which we capitalised on, by rigging the next election to favour Barberini.”

Machiavelli let out a beleaguered sigh.

“Is it too much to ask for a warning before you do something like this again?”

She gave a perfect smirk and a coquettish shrug.

“I doubt we’ll have need to do it again - the Brotherhood is the name on everyone’s lips and the Borgia are aware that we exist again.”

“Oh yes, and the chaos that you caused with Savonarola in ‘97 was much easier by comparison.”

In her mind, she could still see the flames licking up the pile of vanities.

The screams of Savonarola as he stoked the tempers of the crowd higher.

The strange golden glow of the staff he held.

Pinch her thigh under the desk.

“Machiavelli, I am not in the mood to quibble with you again. Why are you here, truly?”

He closed his eyes for a moment, then reached into his doublet, pulling out a letter sealed with cardinal-red wax.

The letter hit the table with a terribly final thud.

“You asked for a meeting with a cardinal in opposition to Borgia. Here you have it.”

She picked it up, opening the seal with the edge of her nail, scanning through it quickly.

Della Rovere? He has decided to take an open stand against Borgia?”

A slow nod.

“It seems the chaos of Venezia has persuaded him to change his side. He wishes to meet with you.”

Jyn closed her eyes, mentally calculating the route from Venezia to Roma - if Cassian pushed, he could be here in a week -

“He wants to meet with you , Claudia Auditore. Alone. Today.”

She started.

What ? Is the man completely insane? Where?”

“Ostia.”

A day’s ride.

She rapped her fingers on the desk.

What would she need to do?

She’d need to send a message to Luke and Leia to hold the city for the moment until she could get back.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

“Give me a moment to get ready - you’re coming with me, Machiavelli.”

 

--

 

They walked from the warehouse to a nearby stable that she’d helped fund, run by a stablemaster that she had rescued, along with his horses, from a group of Borgia guards.

“Madonna!” crowed Salvatore. “Welcome! What brings you here today?”

She grinned, starting to pet one of the gentler mares on the nose. “Not much. Myself and Messer Machiavelli will need to rent two horses for a few days - I’ve received a message from a dear friend at Ostia that I’d like to be able to visit.”

Salvatore started to move in a flurry of action.

“Ostia, madonna? No wonder you’re here - it’s quite a distance away, is it not. No wonder you need horses to get there.”

He led a pair of mares out, patting one of them on the rump.

“These two will do perfectly! They’re quite happy to canter all day if need be.”

Jyn reached down to her purse.

“How much will they be?”

The stablemaster reached out, almost slapping her hand from her purse.

“Nonsense! You’ve given me enough aid already, fighting off those Borgia scum!”

She smiled at him, resisting the urge to smirk at Machiavelli. Her plan to win over the Roman people was beginning to bear fruit.

Meanwhile, Salvatore was finishing with the horses’ tack and was leading them out of the stables.

She followed suit and clambered up onto the mare, offering her thanks when he gave her a lift onto the horse.

Excellent. A full day with Machiavelli.

How wonderful.

 

--

 

“I see that you have been busy around Roma, of late. Was that a stablemaster operating under your orders?”

Jyn replied, in a voice laced with Roman irony.

“And you consider the words of the Borgia to be utter law?”

He raised an eyebrow.

“Don’t play dumb with me - I’ve heard rumours about what you’re doing in Rome, with the enemies of the Borgia. Not entirely far off from what you did with Savonarola.”

She sighed and pulled her mare to a halt, Machiavelli being forced to follow suit.

“It brought him down, did it not? I intend to do the same to the Borgia -”

“Well, you seem to truly excel at opening wounds. Is it true that your newest apprentice has been helping the Thieves’ Guild liberate the funds being sent to Cesare Borgia’s armies?”

A smirk in reply.

“You speak of wounds, Machiavelli, but I don’t intend to treat that. I want to treat the illness, not the symptoms.

“Stop sparring with me.”

She waved her hand out at the city, from where it was barely visible behind the Seven Hills. “I am trying to take away the source of their power.”

“You want to appeal to the people.”

A noncommittal shrug in response.

Pick up the reins in hand again and keep going along the long road to Ostia.

Machiavelli kept speaking from beside her.

What she wouldn’t give for her easy camaraderie with Cassian.

“Relying on the people is like building on sand.”

“No. You are wrong - our only hope to defeat the Templars for good is to stop people like them rising to power.”

She gestured out at the slums they had ridden through.

“No. The people of Roma have more cause than any to hate the Borgia - we just need to give them the opportunity to fight back properly.”

He arched a brow.

“And now you wish to recruit from people who have likely never held a sword before.”

Jyn touched her hand to the Toledo dagger on her hip, giving him a thoughtful look.

“And where do you propose we recruit from? The other Brotherhoods have been decimated and Cassian’s men will take a few months to arrive from Spain. But I don’t want to argue, Machiavelli. We both want what is best for the Brotherhood.”

Out the corner of her eye, she could see him bite back what was an undoubtedly sharp-witted comment.

“Machiavelli, I don’t wish to argue, but we really should just focus on the road.”

A reluctant nod in reply.

“But I still think that you’re making the wrong choice. We should strike soon.”

Her voice grew sharper.

“Not now!”

 

--

 

The red brick of Ostia rose before them, the smell of the sea permeated everything, a sharp saltiness to the air.

The entire city was brimming with a tension that Jyn hadn’t seen since the Sanctuary had been destroyed - almost as if della Rovere had truly put his territories under a proper war footing. Unfortunately, that also meant that the weapons ban was still in place for meeting cardinals and she truly hated being anywhere without either her hidden blade or her dagger.

Even if it did mean that Machiavelli was nowhere to be seen, given that he was a notable ‘ally’ of the Borgia. Or any other attendants or advisors, apparently.

She repressed the urge to purse her lips in discomfort. This would be unpleasant for both of them, given that he was apparently trying to distance himself from the Assassin of Roma.

Jyn pulled herself into a deep, flourishing bow, given how difficult it was to do an aristocratic curtsey in her Assassin robes.

“His Eminence honours and humbles me with his most excellent invitation. I am most gratified to see your countenance and I hope that we may have a pleasant meeting.”

Della Rovere seemed to be gratified by her flattering actions.

“My, you are a flamboyant one.”

He gestured with his hand, indicating a seat and a table for both of them.

“Rise. I’m not interested in pleasantries right now.”

Jyn straightened, refusing to sit down.

Steela’s voice whispered in her mind.

Plant your feet in the ground, Jyn and tell your opponent, no, you move.

Her face was completely neutral.

“So why did you want to see me?”

“To talk terms.”

Jyn stood there in complete silence, waiting for the other man to make his move.

Finally, della Rovere laughed.

“I should have expected that much patience from a woman who waited almost three years to make a move against the Borgia. Very well, then, Claudia Auditore da Roma, I cannot find any records of your existence from before the age of ten and then after the age of sixteen. And yet, if I ask on the streets of Roma, Firenze or Venezia for you, your name stirs up so many rumours and brings up so many emotions that I want the air to be clear between us. So, tell me. Why do you want to kill the Borgia?”

She smirked.

“Why don’t you tell me, your Eminence?”

He gestured at the seat again, and Jyn obliged, taking care to flash the brilliant crimson of her sash as she sat down.

He continued speaking.

“There are also rumours, Claudia Auditore, that you are not a woman of God; a person without Faith is a truly dangerous person indeed. This leaves me in quite the predicament.”

Jyn held her tongue.

“So, what to do with you, then?”

She smiled and continued speaking.

“From what I can see of you and the state of Roma, I would say that you don’t have much hope aside from me to cast down the Borgia. Cesare ravages your family’s holdings in the Romagna, Alexander threatens continually to strip you of your titles and the French nip at all of our heels in Naples. So, I would say that we could both be of assistance to one another.”

Jyn kept her gaze locked on Cardinal della Rovere, who didn’t break the gaze, but a gleam of sweat appeared at his temples.

“So - here is the deal that I wish to propose between the two of us. In return for your financial support (all under the table, naturally), I will support your campaign for Pope once the Borgia are gone.”

“I heard a rumour that you have killed two Dogi of Venezia and that you stood aside while Piero de Medici was killed and that Savonarola’s downfall was your doing.”

“The deaths of the Dogi were not my doing. But yes, Savonarola’s downfall and the rise of the Florentine republic was at my hands.”

Thank God for Cassian’s flair for the dramatic.

The Cardinal raised an eyebrow.

“So, then you are not a woman of God.”

A feral smirk bled onto her face. Even without the hood, she was downright terrifying without it and she took full advantage of it.

“No Assassin is a man of God. We live by our own Creed, outside of society’s strictures. But because of that, I give you my word that we will destroy the Borgia and all that support him.”

“Ah. And therein lies the difficulty. Should you kill one pope, what is to stop you from killing another?”

Jyn closed her eyes, breathing deeply and touching a hand to the ring around her neck.

“You will not get the answers that you want, della Rovere,” she said, dropping all the formalities and the titles. “What you truly wish to know is how you can become Pope and how to avoid an early demise. And there is a simple answer to that.”

All the humour fled from her face and her voice grew dark.

“Do not harm the people. And if you’re not willing to respect that, then the Orsini and Colonna families have already pledged me their support.”

“I--”

“The Borgia will die because they have abused the people around them and they seek to conquer for no reason other than to line their pockets - they have created a world where everyone struggles for food, where women are nothing more than objects to be raped and men are nothing more than fodders for great armies.”

She rose from her seat and made her way to the doors.

His voice rang out through the audience chamber.

“Stop!”

She turned around, standing still in the middle of the room.

“I want financial support for my actions in Roma. Everything else, I can manage on my own. But in exchange for that, I will bring you that which you want most - the Papal Tiara. Are we in agreement.”

The Cardinal nodded his head, reluctantly. He waved in an advisor, gesturing to Jyn to sit down.

“Tell Paris the specifics of what you require and we will bring it to you in Roma.”

She shook her head.

“As much as we have gained here today, if you can give it to me directly now, I can make the most use out of it.”

Another reluctant nod.

“Whatever you require.”

Jyn gave another flourishing bow.

“Thank you, your Eminence. The Brotherhood will remember these actions when the Borgia are cast down.”

“Well played, assassina.”

She walked outside the entrance hall to where Machiavelli waited for her.

“You should have asked him what he was willing to do to us after the Borgia are cast down,” he said in dour tones.

She laughed. “There’s always something, isn’t there?”

 

--

 

On their way back into Roma, a thief had hurriedly run by, handing her a message that said that Cassian had just returned and that the Thieves’ Guild had heard of what had happened in Ostia.

She looked over at Machiavelli.

“You have asked me to make open warfare against the Borgia since the Sanctuary fell. Do you think we’re ready to start?”

A feral grin broke out of his face and he nodded.

She looked down at the thief.

“Tell the guilds to meet us at Isola Tiberina. It’s time we all met.”

And with that, she spurred her horse onwards to where she knew her Brotherhood was waiting for her.

The Liberation of Roma had begun.

Chapter Text

Inside the warehouse, her allies all stood ready around the big central desk in the office, Cassian sitting in one of the two chairs. She caught smile of him and he smiled briefly at her, a slight flicker. The other chair stood big and empty in the middle of the room.

She stood stock still - was that for her?

Chirrut waved her over, pointing at the chair.

“Maestra, why don’t you take your seat.”

Jyn held her chin as high as Steela had taught her before she took her seat, looking out at her Brotherhood.

“Very well, shall we get to business?”

She looked over at Chirrut.

“What have you found out?”

“My spies tell me that the Borgia have found the Apple - they have secreted it to someone for study.”

Jyn’s eyes narrowed as she sucked in a sharp breath.

“Do you know the name yet?”

A shake of her head.

For lack of anything more to say, Jyn kept talking.

“That was fast.”

He shrugged.

“Not really. I’ve had my spies working from the moment that the Sanctuary was destroyed. They’ve been looking for the last three months. We got word the other day about the Apple - we’re not sure what they want to learn about the Apple. As soon as we can work out that criteria, hopefully we can find out a name.”

Jyn looked over at Machiavelli.

“Can you make contact with your spies in the Papal Court to get the name?”

She shot him a death glare before he could make any sort of sardonic remark. She gestured to Leia to start speaking.

“Leia? Do you know anything else?”

A nod in reply.

“I’ve heard whisperings of a conspiracy between the Orsini and Sforza families to bring down Cesare’s armies.”

Machiavelli’s head perked up in the corner of her eye.

“I suspect it would have to be Vito Orsini and Ascanio Sforza. They’re the only ones stupid enough to do it.”

Jyn’s lips tightened.

“Would their actions compromise us?”

“Yes.”

Cassian’s voice rang out from where he sat beside her.

“Machiavelli - can you tell Cesare about the plot? It’ll buy us some more time to start recruiting and plan. And it might buy Firenze some breathing room to keep the Medici out.”

Something flickered over the diplomat’s face and he nodded solemnly.

“You know, every time that I think that you Assassins are fools, you find a way to surprise me. I’ll do it - but at the opportune moment.”

Jyn grinned and turned back to Leia.

“Do you have anything to add?”

“Only that the old madam was a complete idiot. The girls will have a long way to go before they can live up to my expectations and several don’t want to listen about the change in leadership. More than a few want to go back to the old ways and sell their information to the highest bidder.”

“Do you want any help?”

Leia’s jaw clenched and she held her chin higher.

“I should be able to manage.”

Jyn recognised that look in her eyes from the mirror and decided to back off.

With a deep sigh, she straightened her back, trying to disguise the excitement in her eyes.

“Machiavelli - what do we know of Cesare’s movements?”

“He’s in Castel Sant’Angelo with the Pope right now. My spies tell me that he’ll be there for about two weeks. After that he rides to Rimini and Faenza.”

“What is he going to do there?”

Cassian shrugged.

“Conquer, probably. The man wants to put all of Italia under his thumb.”

Jyn took a deep breath.

“So, in short,” she started, hoping that she sounded less shaky than she actually was. “Cesare Borgia is in Castel Sant’Angelo for the next two weeks, before he rides off to conquer more of the Romagna. The Apple has been found and secreted to a mysterious individual to study and they intend to use it. Della Rovere has offered to support us financially, while certain elements of the Sforza and Orsini factions have decided to betray Cesare out of sheer stupidity. The Thieves’ Guild will require more funds, as does the Rosa Negra. Have I missed anything?”

Machiavelli started speaking.

“Bene. There’s our chance to strike. Roma will heal quickly without Cesare and Rodrigo.”

Jyn stiffened in her seat and Cassian reached a hand out to hold her back.

“We’re all that is left of the Brotherhood. If we argue amongst ourselves, we’ll be lost. I will not kill Cesare and Rodrigo and you will not either. We’re going to retake Roma, part by part - and they will die. I give you my word on that on Steela Gerrera’s grave.”

She looked around the room to see reluctant nods.

“The Borgia have no idea we’re coming. They have no reason to expect that we could fight back. If we can get the support of the people, we’ll take the next chance. Then the next. On and on until we win or the chances are spent.”

Cassian stood up next to her, placing a hand on the back of her chair.

“Make ten men feel like a hundred.”

Jyn grinned, revelling in the warmth of her new family. She picked up a map from the table behind her, rolling it out onto the floor.

“So, shall we get started?”

 

---

 

Five years later.

1503

Jyn stood looking out over the city, all of Roma’s beauty standing in stark contrast to the fires that her novices had set to destroy the Borgia towers still burning in the background, the smoke a fine veil over the city. She took a deep breath, Roma’s summer breezes brushing over her face as gentle as a lover’s kiss. And then there was a tender brush across the side of her neck. A brilliant grin broke out across her face as she reached a hand back to run it over her lover’s hair.

“You know, Cassian, one day you’ll be able to actually sneak up on me properly.”

Jyn could feel his smile against the side of her neck as he pressed his body into hers.

“I let you hear me coming.”

She turned fully into his kiss, draping her hands behind his neck.

“Oh, did you?”

His gaze flickered down to his lips and she raised a questioning eyebrow.

“Are you going to kiss me properly?” she said.

He let out a small laugh and pressed his lips to hers - warm and tender and then -

“Maestra!”

They nearly jumped apart, Jyn losing her balance for a moment and almost pulling Cassian with her.

She dragged herself upright, resisting the urge to fiddle with her hair like a child caught in a compromising position. She fixed a glare on the hapless Assassin - Vecellio, it was, the first novice she’d ever recruited from the streets of Roma. Jyn cocked her head, waiting for Vecellio to respond.

Vecellio shifted nervously from one foot to another.

“Umm - Maestra, Messere Machiavelli is here with you. He says that he’s managed to locate the Apple.”

Every nerve and muscle in her body tensed in her body, the easy laughter of earlier completely lost. Next to her, Cassian held himself at the ready, prepared to pounce.

Vecellio took a deep breath and kept going. “He says that someone called Rook has managed to get the Apple to work.”

Jyn’s hand flew up to her necklace, standing still in shock. Her mind finally caught up with her and she ran down the stairs into the main warehouse, Cassian following in her wake.

“Niccolo! Where the hell are you?” she shouted as she reached the central rooms.

The aforementioned diplomat looked up at Jyn, his damned face still completely impassive.

“I see you got my message.”

Jyn bit her tongue, trying to resist the urge to order him out. “What does this mean, specifically, for us ?”

He closed his eyes, undoubtedly sorting through his large list of Papal news.

“Bodhi Rook - the one you wanted found all those years ago - got a message out of Castel Sant’Angelo that the Apple is ready for use.”

Cassian’s voice, his tone laced with apprehension rang out, “Where do they plan to use it?”

Machiavelli shrugged. “My bet is in the Romagna. The Orsini families have been causing them great grief there, as have Saw Gerrera’s men. One more thing, Claudia.”

Jyn’s head snapped up. He continued speaking.

“Cesare rides into Roma today to take possession of the Apple in full.”

She clenched and unclenched her fist, her hidden blade ready. When she spoke, her voice was low and dangerous.

“Where is he?”

 

--

 

It had taken some convincing to stop Jyn charging in as a one-woman army into the Vatican and leaping from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel to kill the pope. Instead, she spent a good portion of the evening preparing. With Cesare’s bankers all dead and his French support gone, this would be the opportune moment to strike. Word of the Assassin’s war would spread to Cesare and she needed to ensure that his return present was appropriate - the death of his father and the theft of the Apple.

Leia had found a set of Cardinal’s robes that had been “left behind” in the brothel, which would be adequate cover for all of Cassian’s weapons. Jyn’s lips had tightened briefly when she realised that it meant that she wouldn’t be able to kill Rodrigo herself. Oh well. Bodhi would react better hopefully if he knew that it was an ally coming after him.

Cassian pressed his forehead to hers before he left to blend into the crowds entering the Vatican for the eleventh anniversary of Rodrigo’s election.

“I’m with you Jyn. All the way.”

She closed her eyes, revelling in his touch, but only for a moment.

“I’ll see you when it’s over. I’ll kill you if you don’t come back.”

He huffed a quick laugh, gently kissing her forehead before he vanished into the crowds, a brilliant flash of red that disappeared into the teeming throngs of Roma.

Jyn breathed in deeply for a moment, looking up at the looming grey stones of Castel Sant’Angelo, before stepping out onto the morning crowds on the Ponte Sant’Angelo. Her ears remained alert amidst the people, listening to them telling of the Assassin that was supposedly coming after Borgia blood.

She hid her smile in the sleeve of her robes.

The sun finally rose above the horizon and the door for the Castel finally opened, allowing for a change of guards and she moved with the crowds as they filed into the central courtyard. Once she reached the northern side of the Castel, she slipped into the shadows and into the entrance of the prison proper. A moment with her lockpicks had the door falling open and she made her way into the maze of corridors, letting her Eagle see for her, a trail of gold marking the path to where her old friend was being held.

The great wooden door to his cell was wide open and a man’s cruel voice rang out from the room.

“I don’t understand,” he said. “You said that you had managed to get the Apple to work.”

Bodhi’s voice filtered out, shakier than she had ever heard it before.

“I’m so sorry, signor, but I must have been mistaken about it - look! It’s not glowing like it was earlier.”

Glowing?

She peered around the corner to see Bodhi holding a brilliantly carved orb in his hand, another man in the black robes of an archbishop leaning over him.

Wait - she knew him from somewhere.

Oh!

Her mind flashed back to a garden in the middle of a summer Tuscan rainstorm.

We’ll come back for you, piccina!

She wrenched her mind back to the present, clenching and unclenching her hand. The buckle of her hidden blade brushed against the hilt of her sword.

A loud sound rang out.

A flash of her sash as she leapt at the archbishop.

A loud groan from him as her hidden blade buried itself deep in his chest.

“Who are you?” he said, as he struggled to find his breath.

Her voice rang out strong and clear.

“My name is Jyn Erso, daughter of Galen and Lyra. And your reign over this world is over.”

Bodhi still stood in the middle of the room, shaking like a leaf and Jyn pulled her hood back from her face, standing tall and proud.

“Hey there? You ok? You remember who I am?”

He gave her a shaky nod. “I sketched you a few times, didn’t I?”

She gave a reassuring smile. “You did. One of my allies said that you managed to get the Apple to work. Is it safe to use?”

He started shaking even harder at that and a manic gleam appeared in his eyes.

What on Earth had the Templars been doing to him?

She spoke to me through the Apple - I couldn’t get it to stop -”

“Shhhhh. You’re safe now, Bodhi. You got the message out, remember - you’re the messenger.”

He seemed to calm down at that and she approached a little closer.

“I’m the messenger,” he was repeating.

Lay a hand on his arm.

“You’re the messenger.”

The loud sound of an explosion rocked the Castel.

Merda.

That would be the first signal.

She grabbed Bodhi’s arm.

“We need to get out of here. Now. Are you ready to go?”

Something snapped in him and she could see the old Bodhi in his movements, as he grabbed a small leatherbound journal off the table.

Jyn grabbed the Apple with her free hand, jerking back when it grew warm in her hand all of a sudden.

What on earth?

Her gaze flickered down to where it was glowing, and small voice in the back of her head cried out.

What?

The sound of soldiers echoed down the hallway, coming ever closer.

“The prophet! She is here!”

She shoved the Apple into her coat pocket, grabbing Bodhi with her other hand.

“Which way is the fastest way out of here?”

His eyes were still wild.

There was no time for this.

Jyn let go of his hand and hit him hard across the face.

“Bodhi! Which is the fastest way out of the Castel?”

His hand started twitching in her grip and she repeated the question again.

“Which is the fastest way out of the Castel?”

“The kitchens.”

He hurriedly grabbed something from the table and clipped it to her bracer. No time to see what he had done. She started pulling Bodhi down the hallway away from the sound of the soldiers running through the Castel. He suddenly jerked back, pointing to another corridor.

“This way!”

The sound of their footsteps running echoed through the walls. All Jyn could hear was the sound of her heart beating in her ears. A series of voices floated up from what was undoubtedly the kitchens.

“What do you mean, you don’t have any cantarella left?”

Lucrezia.

“I’m sorry, signora, but the Holy Father has taken all of it!”

Why would Rodrigo Borgia have taken poison? From everything she’d seen before, poison didn’t seem like his preferred method of murder.

No time to worry.

She dragged Bodhi towards the door, whispering to him fiercely.

“Get to the Ponte Sant’Angelo. There’s a novice there waiting to get you to the hideout. Don’t say anything to anyone.”

He nodded shakily and hurried towards the door.

The cook started talking again.

“He is meeting with Cesare. The Captain General returns this morning and intends to meet the Holy Father upon his arrival.”

Lucrezia started talking again, almost murmuring to herself. “Strange. He didn’t tell me of Cesare’s return…”

What was that tone in her voice?

It was almost like a caress.

Jyn shook her head a moment, listening again.

“He’ll be in his apartments in the Apostolic Palace.”

Perfect.

Jyn pulled her hood back over her face, rushing through the Castel to where Machiavelli had told her that Il Passetto began. The small entryway seemed to tower over her. A quick flex of her hand to unsheathe and sheathe her hidden blade. Jyn sprinted into the passage, letting her Eagle fly, as she followed the golden path across Rome towards the Apostolic Palace and her true target. The spires and crowds of Roma rushed by beneath her and she cast a quick glance at the rooftops, looking for a familiar flash of white. An eagle let out a cry overhead.

Merda .

She started running faster, the top of the Vatican obelisk coming into view. The passage was suddenly plunged into darkness as she entered the Apostolic Palace proper. She paused a moment, resting her hands on her thighs.

Take a deep breath.

Close her eyes.

Open her eyes.

Keep running.

Wait!

Something was there.

A door.

Jyn ran her hands over it, looking for the handle.

Merda.

Trust.

Of course it would be locked.

Why would Borgia be stupid enough to leave a secret entrance to the palace open?

She raised a hand to start banging on the door when she heard something from the other side.

Voices.

“My funds, my troops! Gone!”

She remembered that voice.

That was Cesare’s voice.

She took a deep breath.

“My funds, my troops! Gone!” His voice almost sounded like a whine. “I go to draw money to pay for more mercenaries, only to find that I have none? And when I send an inquiry back here, my men are searched! Because the French no longer control the area!

He was almost hysterical.

Another man’s voice started talking.

She knew it from somewhere.

“Financial difficulties strike all of us. Even those with an army.”

Oh God! Rodrigo! The Grand Master she’d overheard in Venezia!

Cesare started talking again.

“Do you intend to give me more money?” Cesare demanded.

His father was cold and firm.

“No. I do not.”

Cesare sounded like a spoiled child as he growled out, “Then I will use the Piece of Eden to get what I want. Your help is not necessary.”

Jyn reached a hand up to touch where the Piece of Eden rested against her chest.

If Bodhi’s madness had been any inspiration, Cesare with the Apple would be a terrifying sight. She took a deep breath and leaned closer to the door where Rodrigo was speaking.

“Are you aware that the Baron de Valois is dead?”

Cesare let out a gasp.

Rodrigo continued on, a relentless march. “He has been dead for five months as you conquer and fight and -”

“Did you -”

“What reason could I have to kill him? Was he plotting against me with my brilliant and traitorous son? Plotting to have all of Italia belong to him instead of the Papacy?”

He let out a small bitter laugh and kept going.

“There is a balance to power. I have power because I understand power. All you do is want more and more. Nothing is ever enough. And yet you understand nothing !”

“I do not have to stand for this! You, who never gave a damn about anything now criticise me and my quest for power! Instead, you plot against me -”

“The Assassins murdered the baron.”

From behind the door, Jyn stifled a quick laugh.

“Why did you not stop them?”

Cesare sounded like a petulant child, demanding that someone else fix his problems for him.

Jyn knelt down towards where the lock would be in the door.

Damn.

There was no light here.

Wait!

The Apple!

She pulled it out of her coat, where it was still glowing softly.

The voice came back.

“The Prophet!”

She blocked it out, confused beyond belief, setting it on the ground and pulling out a pair of lockpicks.

Blessedly, the voice stopped.

Rodrigo was scoffing.

“It was not my decision to declare war on the Assassins! You decided to do that yourself! And now you reap what you have sown! Take responsibility for your actions and end this yourself.”

“My accomplishments! I achieved them despite the interference of failures like you! I shall get my Apple and unite Italia under my rule, you old fool.”

She could hear the sound of feet moving and she started jiggling the lockpicks faster, willing them to open the door.

Rodrigo was completely calm from the other side of the door.

“You will not go anywhere. I have the Apple. Solve this on your own.”

His voice brooked no disappointment and yet Cesare kept protesting.

“I gave you everything, Cesare. At yet it was never enough.”

The sound of feet and a rustling skirt.

“Cesare!”

Why was Lucrezia there?

God be damned, what was wrong with this lock!

“He’s going to poison you, my love! He’s taken all my cantarella and he’s going to kill you!”

“You would not listen to reason.”

There was the sound of spitting, followed by a deadly calm.

A series of choking and gagging sounds started.

Cesare’s voice was as cold as ice.

“Father. Do you not see? I control all of this? If I want to live, I live. If I want to take, I take.” He was panting now, full of rage. “And if I want you to die, you die !”

Lucrezia started screaming.

Jyn flicked her eyes down to the Apple in her possession--so much fighting over this. Wait, what had Bodhi clipped to her--Oh God. His hidden gun. Jyn grabbed the Apple with the end of her sash, lighting the area.

Aim it at the lock. Turn her head away. Pull the trigger.

Light it up.

The entire room exploded with sound and the door fell wide open. Cesare was gone the moment she burst into the room and all she found was Lucrezia in the corner, bruises on her face and Rodrigo Borgia, dying on the floor, Cassian kneeling over him.

“Requiescat in pace.”

His voice was raspy when he replied.

“You would offer peace to such an enemy?”

It was Cassian who replied.

“I have never wished for death. But I will kill if there are no other options.”

Lucrezia coughed.

“He’s going for the Apple!”

Jyn nodded to where it still sat in her hand and Lucrezia sagged with relief, almost falling to the floor before Cassian caught her, carrying her to the door of the apartments. She rushed back to the ruined door of Il Passetto, hiding behind it, shoving the Apple down her shirt, where it rested warm against her skin.

“His Holiness is ill and my lady was attacked!”

Guards quickly began to swarm the room, taking Lucrezia away. Cassian easily disappeared in the confusion and he slipped out into the passageway in confusion, grabbing her by the hand and leading her back towards the Castel. They stood atop the open portion of the passage, Cassian still gripping her hand tightly. The adrenaline rush from earlier faded and she sagged against the wall.

He let out a deep sigh, almost a laugh. “You know, that’s not exactly how I thought we’d kill a Pope.”

Jyn started laughing, half in hysterics, grabbing her side as Cassian held her upright.

She laughed hard enough to bring tears to her eyes, finally lifting her head to meet his eyes, smiling at him.

“Are you alright?”

She could feel his thumb sweeping across his cheekbone and she leaned into his chest out of exhaustion.

“You know, you should really get rid of those robes before someone asks why a Cardinal is holding a strange woman.”

He gave her a sidelong glance.

“Jyn, if Roma has taught me anything, it’s that being in a cardinal’s robes and holding a strange woman will make me hide in plain sight better than anything.”

Jyn tried to hold in a little laugh before she leaned up and gave him a quick peck on the lips, relishing their closeness.

“How about this? I can’t race you back to the hideout if you’re still wearing the robes.”

Cassian looked completely confused when she pulled away and jumped off the edge of the walkway into a pile of leaves below.

“See you back there!” she called up.

The wind whipped through her hair as she started to sprint through the throngs of people, laughing when she heard Cassian’s heavier footsteps behind her.

 

--

 

Jyn and Cassian had essentially collapsed the moment they had reached the hideout, almost being herded to their room by a gaggle of their apprentices.

She slept poorly that night, the whispers of the Apple bleeding into her mind.

You are the Prophet!

Reach out and take the power.

It is yours.

Seek out the Key.

She jerked awake out of bed, pressing the heels of her hands to her eyes.

Cassian’s muffled voice spoke from behind her.

“Go to sleep, Jyn.”

Jyn reached out to grab the Apple where she had left it on a table and locked it in her armoire.

The rest of her sleep was completely dreamless.

The following morning, after a too-large breakfast that Leia had bullied her into eating, she sat at the large desk while the rest of the Brotherhood and Guilds gathered.

“Rodrigo Borgia is dead. Cesare also is on his deathbed - poisoned, but alive. He managed to escape, but he won’t be able to do much while he recovers.”

Machiavelli pinched the bridge of his nose.

“We need to ensure that he can’t be allowed to assemble his remaining supporters before the next conclave.”

With a pointed glance at Jyn, he continued.

“Della Rovere wishes for you to repay the debt we owe him, no thanks to your negotiation. He wants to become the next pope.”

Jyn rubbed her temples.

“Of course he does,” she said. “Prevaricate on my behalf, please. Tell him that he undoubtedly has more funds to sway the election than we do. We have other matters to discuss. What did you hear of Cesare’s troops?”

Machiavelli spoke in his dour manner.

“He’s withdrawn all of his troops to guard the Vatican - we might not be able to influence the conclave much either way.”

From beside her, Cassian spoke. “Can we get access to any forces? It would be better if we could get an army to patrol the streets.”

Jyn’s mind went up to the Apple locked in their room.

“We might not need one.”

Cassian’s brow furrowed but he relaxed, nonetheless.

Thankfully, they didn’t require an army, since Cesare wasn’t strong enough to physically offer the bribes required to sway an election and anti-Borgia sentiment was high enough that sending messengers would be dangerous. Mostly likely, this had something to do with Borgia having policies that had resulted in Roma almost being attacked by three separate armies: Cesare’s, the French and the Spanish. And to add to the climate, it was decided to hold the conclave in Castel Sant’Angelo instead of the Sistine Chapel, which would require Cesare to vacate the city.

From the whispers that Leia’s girls managed to collect, it was rumoured that the current favourite was the French Cardinal Georges d’Amboise and the French had made it clear that it would be a major affront if the conclave began without him in attendance.

The Brotherhood was kept incredibly busy in the month before the conclave, keeping the people safe as they always had and shadowing the cardinals to try and communicate with them, a plot ultimately foiled by Cesare ordering the City Guard to surround them for their own safety. Jyn was ready to tear her hair out with frustration over the waiting as the cardinals were locked into the Castello. At this point, she didn’t care any more about the Papacy, provided that Cesare Borgia was not allowed to influence the election.

The next day, Pope Pius III was elected as Pope and Jyn breathed a sigh of relief. He was old, frail and had a reputation for piety that no one could argue with. But then he decided to keep Cesare in power as the head of the Papal armies.

She slammed her head on the desk, while Cassian patted her shoulder.

“Look at it this way. He’ll last only a few years and the politics will settle, then we can worry about the conclave after a short breather.”

She smiled. “I wish I shared your enthusiasm.”

The next few weeks were spent in a flurry of activity as they continued to hunt Cesare, with the different branches of the Assassins sending in tips as the backlash to the Borgia grew almost daily. And yet, it was impossible to find where Cesare was hiding and recovering from his fever or find him at a time when he was not surrounded by an entire squadron of guards.

She and Cassian were pouring over a set of maps, trying to find out Cesare’s most likely location and methods they could use to kill his guards, when a novice burst in.

“Maestra, the Pope is dead.”

Jyn nearly spat out her sip of wine.

“You’re joking.”

Cassian patted her shoulder as she slammed her head into the desk again.

“Oh well. At least this way, Cesare might not be able to stay at the head of the Papal armies.”

If looks could kill, Cassian would be dead a thousand times over. She tapped her finger on the desk. This time, she needed to be not so locked out.

 

--

 

It started with intelligence gathering.

Chirrut promised to increase the number of spies he had on the streets and in the Papal Court to try and find out who would be likely to succeed Pius. Jyn called in Leia to start pressuring the cardinals in her clientele to try and get an idea of what Cesare was planning. It was a few days before word arrived.

“Cesare plans to meet with his Templar loyalists tonight. One of the cardinals departs tonight and will lead the way,” Leia said.

Jyn nodded to her.

“Get the recruits. This ends now.”

 

--

 

The meeting was being held in the ruins of the Roman gates - Jyn closed her eyes and sighed in relief. The ruins and the loose stones would be a godsend to her Assassins, who she stationed around the walls, all of them taking their places just moments before Cesare arrived with a full squad of guards that he stationed at the various entrances.

Her hand reached up to her chest where the Apple was tucked, wrapped in a layer of sackcloth.If Cassian had been right and it had been capable of levelling cities, perhaps she could use it as a final defence against Cesare. Cardinals began to arrive, mostly Spanish, but a few French and Italian ones as well. How the hell had he managed to drum up this much support?

Cesare started to speak, his face masked.

“Join me and I will take back Roma.”

One cardinal stepped forward shakily.

“The Borgia are over. Your reign has ended.”

Jyn could see Cesare tense with rage and she gave Cassian, who hid across from her, a nod as he started to move closer to the meeting. Another cardinal had stepped forward.

“Walk the streets! Have you not seen that your money is tainted?”

Her lips curved upwards in a smile. On the ground, she could see Cesare’s hand drop to the hilt of his sword. She drew her own and leapt out of her hiding spot.

“Hired men might promise you the world, but as soon as you need help, they will turn against you!”

The cardinals scattered around them in a flurry of red cloth.

“Guards!” Cesare shouted.

A second platoon of guards suddenly arrive in response to his shouts and her novices leapt into action.

Duck under a spear.

Grab a man’s arm and pull him close enough to stab.

Dance away from a glancing wound to her side.

She looked around at the other assassins. Cassian had taken a glancing head wound and a handful of others were nursing injuries. They were outmatched and outnumbered. A guard suddenly knocked her to the ground, her sword flying out of her hand. She reached into her coat, the Apple blazing to brilliant life.

The otherworldly voice cried in the back of her head.

The Prophet!

Take the power!

She closed her eyes and focused , the power reaching into her bones. Golden lightning arced out from the Apple. All around her, the guards all killed themselves or started killing each other. She looked around in horror. Was this what it meant to be a master of the Apple? 30 dead in a single blow.

Jyn fell to the ground, completely helpless.

“Jyn!” Cassian yelled, holding his sword over her.

She rolled over and got to her knees.

Behind them she could hear shouting.

She closed her eyes.

“Vittoria agli Assassini!” was the cry that rose up around them.

What ?

The citizens of Roma rushed into the fight, carrying knives and pitchforks and shovels, all piling onto the Borgia forces. She tucked the Apple into her pocket and Cassian helped her up to her feet. Cesare looked worried from where he stood at the gate of Roma, the road to the Romagna stretching out behind him. She pulled her back straight.

“Throw down your arms, Cesare Borgia.”

Cesare countered, his self-control slipping.

“Micheletto’s troops mass behind me and I will take back my city.”

Jyn stretched out a hand behind her, to where the Roman mob was taking down his troops.

“This is not your city anymore.”

Cesare pulled his sword out and Jyn ducked in to fight.

Deflect the blow over her head.

Twist around, bringing her sword up.

Bring in a sharp downwards movement.

Block a sharp blow.

Neatly sidestep his wild thrust.

Grab him by the collar.

Unsheathe her hidden blade and slash the ribbon holding his mask in place.

His beard was dirty with spit and food and his long stringy hair was unkempt. His face bore the scars of the French pox and his eyes were bright with madness.

Was this truly one of Italia’s most handsome men?

She held him up for the mob to see.

“Behold! The Lion of the Borgia!”

Pushing through the crowd was Fabio Orsini and a handful of Papal Guards, flanked by Machiavelli.

“It appears that the College of Cardinals has voted to arrest you for the crimes of murder, betrayal and incest.”

Cesare started screaming as the guards carried him away.

“No! No! This is not how it ends! Chains will not hold me! I will not die by the hand of man!”

 

--

 

The conclave came and went without too much chaos, della Rovere simply paying all the cardinals off to ensure his election in a landslide conclave.

Jyn sent Machiavelli off to deal with the new pope Julius II’s demands while she stood on a building at the edge of the Tevere, next to Cassian, the two of them looking at the Apple she held, still wrapped in a large weighted sack.

His voice was pensive at her side. “You know, with that Apple, you could rule all of Italia for good? Level cities, ensure obedience, whatever you wanted.”

Jyn turned to him, letting her face to whatever it wanted, smiling in his presence.

“You know, I never wanted any sort of power at all. I’ve got all I want right here.”

She came in closer, her free hand sliding into the hair at the nape of his neck as his arms wrapped around her waist.

“Jyn,” he whispered, a low exhale against her lips as they kissed.

She tilted her head upwards to deepen the kiss, as his lips part under hers before he pulled away, his eyes dark..

He nodded towards the Apple.

“Have you decided what to do with it yet?”

She smiled, hefting the weight in her hand, before throwing it in the Tevere where it landed with barely a splash.

“I think the world would be better off without this, don’t you think?”

He grinned.

Jyn extricated herself from his grasp, moving towards the edge of the building.

“You’ll meet me at the bottom?”

He laughed.

A foot on the precipice of the roof.

Arms outstretched.

A body throwing themselves into the air.

The wind whipping through her hair.

The splash of water below.

The cry of an eagle circling above.