Chapter 1: Calculations
In the midst of numerous calculations and possibilities, there was always some that differed in some fundamental way. A blip that was unexpected and not noticed until it was too late. With Minerva concentrating crafting ideal bloodline for activation of the sun shields, Juno took note on the final product.
Desmond Miles. Almost perfect. But too willful, too rebellious, too stubborn. Just like these humans were right now. While his blood may be strong enough and the outcome preferable…There was still a chance of him shaking her off. Juno wanted someone more malleable.
She touched the timeline, tweaking the future just a smidge and with a smile watched to changes bloom. Now she only needed to settle to wait in her temple for Desmond to arrive in order to enact the second phase of her plan.
And thus have him out of the way of Aaron Miles.
By the time Minerva noticed, it was already too late and she needed to record a message for they cypher that they’d receive through the prophet. But through calculations, she could see where her original intended was and thus reach to him as well, offer words to him and give peace of mind to new cypher.
She could only hope that would be enough. That Juno hadn’t done anything else as she was running out of time. For this purpose, Aaron should fit as well as Desmond would’ve.
Chapter 2: Desmond
And time to meet protagonist of this story.
Desmond Miles was not an assassin. He did not want to be one. And everyone around Farm said he did not have the skills to become one. Especially his father did.
It became worse when Aaron started his training. Aaron was younger than Desmond by three years but started training a year earlier, at five when Desmond had started his when he was six.
And Aaron was better at everything. He learnt fighting techniques faster, he hit harder, he was much quicker at feet… He had the perfect makings of an assassin.
Desmond was twelve when William put them fight each other for the first time. Desmond lost. He didn’t want to hurt Aaron, he didn’t want to hit and kick and trip him. Aaron ha no such reservations. Aaron strove for William’s approval and drank up every compliment showered at him.
Desmond didn’t hate Aaron. He knew that Aaron was young and believed everything told to him. But Desmond could see how differently their parents had treated Aaron from the beginning, probably fixing any mistakes they’d done with Desmond.
He had no idea what Aaron thought of him though. They weren’t that close but Desmond didn’t get the impression Aaron scorned him, unlike some other trainees did. At most… Aaron seemed to pity him. He never accepted Desmond’s help at anything but likewise he didn’t offer to help Desmond either. They were… distant.
It all came to head on Desmond’s fourteenth birthday. He’d been planning on escape for a long time but always delayed it. Thought to get some more training to actually survive the escape and remain under radar. Thought to wait to learn how to drive as those lessons were given once fifteen… But a week before his birthday Aaron managed to develop the Eagle Vision and entire Farm’s attention went to that while Desmond was in chore duty once more. But it helped him to slip unnoticed as he gathered supplies and packed his bag. His birthday went unmentioned that year and, in the night, Desmond slipped out and ran into the wilderness.
It was a sweltering July day when one chapter in Desmond’s life closed. It might’ve even been July 4th but time spent hitchhiking and lifting a ride had completely made the boy lose his sense of time. And direction. Only thing Desmond wanted was to get away from the Farm so he had simply ambled forward any way he could using everything he could remember from his lessons to remain unnoticed. Thus avoidance of cities and spending most of his time in the woods. One memorable time Desmond had even jumped to cargo train headed for east coast.
But that particular day was very hot and humid and had Desmond seeking solace from a cave. He made it all the way to the bottom, where some cool space was waiting for him… with an oddly smooth wall with oddly angular lines on the surface. With weird circular indentation on it too…
Desmond couldn’t help but poke at things and feel around. Getting a cut to his hand as a thanks.
“Ouch…” The boy muttered.
“Ah, Desmond Miles…” A voice that was vaguely feminine echoed in the space. Faintly. It was very quiet voice.
“Huh? Who’s there?” Desmond looked around, trying to locate the woman. It someone that knew his name was here…
“I am Juno. And I’m offering you a gift.”
“A gift of life. Of freedom.”
“What do you mean?”
“Wouldn’t you want a new life? Without responsibilities? Without expectations? Just doing what you want.”
And Desmond, the fool he was, accepted. Light filled his vision and the lines on the wall before him was the last he saw of that time and that continent.
But maybe that was for the better.
Desmond woke up on cobblestone beneath a bridge. He wasn’t wearing his own clothes anymore and none of his meagre belongings were nearby either. His head was hurting and he was really hungry.
His head was full of stuff he definitely hadn’t previously known and that stuff was telling Desmond that he was in Florence and the year was 1485. And that he’d been stuffed into body of some poor kid that’d ran away from home and gotten into a fight with his head hit on the stones.
This Juno had dropped Desmond into body of some kid that’d probably died of intracranial bleeding just moments ago. And now Desmond had a headache from that and all of… Dante’s memories.
Chapter 3: Giulia
Desmond makes a friend and discovers he has family.
During the first weeks in Florence, Desmond spent his time taking stock of his surroundings, making sure he remained clean enough not to attract attention and of course getting used to everything. Dante’s memories provided a language and basic etiquette. And Dante’s background was similar enough that if someone came sniffing after Desmond, he wouldn’t need to spin too elaborate lies.
But lie he still needed to. Lie and steal and cheat and sneak away from trouble. All of them skills Desmond had learnt better than Aaron but had not been looked upon any more favorably. Within first days Desmond had found the rooftops of Florence as his second home and enjoyed great exploring them and traversing above ground. A skill a modern assassin rarely had need for as 21st century cities were loosely built and of glass and metal.
This place and time though… Desmond thrived. Air was clear, architecture beautiful and he finally felt like he could do something. True, he had to steal money and food in order to survive but that was little in comparison to the fact that here there were no cultists chasing him down. Moreover, he easily blended among the other people traversing rooftops or children running on the streets.
Desmond was free.
It was last day of July when Desmond met Giulia. The girl was small but according to herself, she was already eight.
“You look like me. Are you my brother?” She asked. Desmond had been eating an apple in a shadow of a narrow alley when she appeared from the mouth of the alley leading towards unsavory parts of Florence. Desmond had stopped mid-bite and taken a stock of her. Light brown eyes, dark hair roughly braided and bound with dirty strip of silk, worn and dirty dress of the same color than the strip and some breeches underneath it. No shoes. She looked underfed but not terribly malnourished. So she probably had learnt to survive the streets long ago.
“I don’t think so.” Desmond replied to the question. “Unless our father went around bedding many women.” Dante’s father was unknown. His mother was wealthy heiress in political marriage where the husband had refused to lay with her. So with the husband’s permission, she’d gone to secure an heir through other means and seduced some poor soul. Dante’s stepfather had never cared for the boy much, he’d just been a means to end and received education befitting station but no affection and always having the knowledge of being a bastard child. But then the stepfather’s younger brother had died and left behind a son, a legitimate heir and Dante was told to find some way to be useful to the world, like becoming a soldier. Sort of familiar history for Desmond’s past for him to adjust to.
Dante had ran away and presumably died a week later and had Desmond shoved into his head.
“My mother was a whore. So it’s possible.” The girl retorted. “I’m Giulia. Who’re you?”
“Dante…” Desmond was too unusual name and technically he was Dante now too.
“You shall be my brother now.” The girl decided, walking up to him and climbing on a crate to sit down on, so she’d be on eyelevel with Desmond. “Do you know who your father is?”
“…” Desmond had to dig into Dante’s memories to figure it out. There was a period of time when Dante’s mother had been wearing a black velvet band around her wrist but not mourned otherwise. Time when she pursed her lips when it came to certain rumors… But Dante had been little then, only five or six… And no name was ever given to him. “I think he is dead… Mother seemed to mourn someone years ago.”
“My father isn’t. My mother used to curse his name whenever she got drunk and then she made me swear not to tell it to anyone.”
“Okay. So, we aren’t siblings then.” Desmond pondered if it was cowardly to run away from this girl. Giulia was strange. Very strong-willed and had quite mature speech.
“Yes, we are. Because we look alike and I say so.” Giulia retorted.
“Right… Where is your mother?”
“Drunk somewhere. She was thrown out of bordello last year and we’ve been on the streets since. She was stealing money from madame.”
Well, that explained Giulia’s speech. She must’ve been taught some to keep her occupied while the ladies of bordello… entertained quests.
“Ah… What’s your father’s name then…”
“The surviving Auditore.”
Auditore… If Desmond remembered correctly, there was still some rumors about that family. About their execution on the charges of treason. About Lorenzo de’Medici’s declaration that they were no traitors. Maybe he should ask around a bit… See if his sire’s name would surface as well.
Federico Auditore da Firenze. The eldest of Auditore children. Womanizing brat just like his younger brother Ezio – the surviving Auditore – was. And probably an easy target for Dante’s mother, with standards being met as well.
For now it was only guesswork but Desmond was pretty confident about it. After telling Giulia about it, the girl had practically glued herself to his side and refused to budge, even when Desmond took the rooftops.
So he had to learn how to climb with a limpet handing onto his back. And teach Giulia about climbing as well. He taught her about measuring distance and best handholds. He even stole some leather to fashion shoes for her. It was strange how attached they became. Especially after learning more about the Auditore and all the men Ezio had killed in Florence and other cities. There was no shortage of rumors being exchanged between merchants and citizens.
All that information made Desmond remember the history lessons held at Farm. About the Great Mentor Ezio Auditore da Firenze who demolished Templar power in Italy and established Assassins in cities of Italy and eventually across southern Europe. Alongside Altaïr, Ezio was one of the most idolized Assassins of all time. And William had proudly proclaimed being of his blood.
In hindsight, there was no wonder that Desmond was attached to Auditore family now… blood was a strong driving force among Assassins and Templars both after all. Anonymity his current role granted was a blessing though. Auditores did not know of him, being out of Florence. And Dante’s mother and step father did not miss him either. Desmond was still free.
“Do you think we could try to find my father some day?” Giulia asked. It was late September. There were rumors of white ghost claiming lives in Venice. Without doubt it was about Ezio assassinating people.
“Someday.” Desmond agreed. “But it will be hard to have people believe us… Auditores are wealthy after all. Moreover… Ezio seems to travel a lot. It would be hard to catch him.”
“Then we’ll go to that city where he went first!”
“You mean after the executions.”
“Yes! Florence is nice but I want to see more. And if there is a place that accepts alleged traitors to Altezza…”
“It may accept a pair of orphans as well.”
Well, it had been already obvious that Giulia was smart.
Monteriggioni was not as grand as Florence but it had sense of freedom within its walls. Desmond and Giulia arrived sometime in October and vanished to the streets at once, eager to explore their new territory.
There were mercenaries who took care of city defenses. There were regular town people who went about their businesses, traded, had shops or then worked for the Auditore. There was even a brothel with its courtesans.
Desmond and Giulia found a place to live in the attic of old lady Marcela. If she knew they were there, she didn’t try to chase them out yet. While Monteriggioni didn’t have much in the way of poor and suffering as everyone pitched in to help others, Desmond and Giulia didn’t stand out too much. There were young men among mercenary garrisons and some apprentices for craftsmen as well. Desmond had tried to make sure they wouldn’t attract too much attention.
Well, more than two new faces in general would. Their accents marked them Florentine. Their lack of guardians marked them orphans. Their talent in vanishing from sight and traversing rooftops marked them potential recruits.
They had tried not to get too dirty and keep their clothes relatively clean and not too ragged. Desmond fingercombed Giulia’s hair every morning and tied it on a braid with a sturdy leather string that had been found at cobbler’s floor. His own hair was getting long as well but not long enough to tie it back yet. So Desmond used a piece of scrap fabric he’d found stuck in a tree to keep his hair out of his face. Eventually they both would need a haircut. But for now they managed.
Month into living Monteriggioni, Marcela finally climbed to the attic and ushered them downstairs. It had started to rain in earnest and the roof was leaky. The old woman served them soup and told them with no-nonsense attitude that left no room for arguments that from now on they’d be living in her spare bedroom and they would need to find something sensible to do around the town.
“I know you both are children and like to run and have fun but you won’t be children forever.” Marcela explained. “Especially you Dante.”
“I was tossed on the streets when legitimate heir was chosen. I didn’t want to join the guard.” Desmond argued. “And I can’t get an apprenticeship this late anymore.”
“Well, put your speed in some use then. Monteriggioni covers a lot of ground and has many allied people in the countryside. Couriers are rare though.”
A courier… Well, why not. But what about Giulia…?
But Marcela had an answer to that one too.
“My sister is a seamstress. She could have Giulia taught the trade.”
“I don’t want to leave Dante!” Giulia retorted. “Dante won’t leave me either, right?” She turned to look at the teen with tears shining in her eyes.
“Giulia…” It was true that Desmond didn’t want to leave the girl. And hearing the desperation was heartbreaking. “We can’t keep going as we have. In Florence we could steal from people but here there is no other nobility than Auditores, and we don’t want to cross them. In Monteriggioni people are working hard to make their livings rather than sitting on inheritance. We need to find a way to make money and start investing to skills that’ll aid us in the future.”
“Giulia, we won’t be separated all the time. I will always return here to you. We are family after all.”
Next morning Marcela dressed the pair into some old (but clean) clothes she had around in chests and introduced Giulia to her sister Teresa and then took Desmond to guard post at the entrance of Monteriggioni.
“This is Dante. He is fast and could become your new courier.”
“You sure?” One of the mercenaries acting as a guard asked.
“Yes. Surely you have seen him around. Running on rooftops like he got wings on his back.”
“Heh, true enough. The only other person I’ve seen doing that has been Ser Ezio.” The mercenary grinned and looked Desmond up and down before finally making eye contact. “I’m Lucio, kid. How well do you know the area?”
“I know Monteriggioni’s layout very well but specific people not so much. The surrounding lands I’ve looked at but because of my sister I rather not left the safety of walls for long.”
“Got a good sense of direction?”
“Excellent.” Desmond wasn’t sure if it was beginnings of Eagle Vision or what but he always seemed to know where North was and where guards were so once he learnt the area, it was near impossible for him to get lost.
“Ever ridden a horse?”
“Once.” He and Giulia had stolen a horse in order to leave Florence and ridden about halfway to Monteriggioni before leaving it at a farm and continuing the rest of the way on foot. Riding was… hard but the horse had been kind and patient even with Desmond’s inexperience.
“Well, that’s a good base to start from. Know any fighting? There may be bandits on the roads.”
“Knife and some hand to hand.” Memories from Farm almost surfaced but Desmond pushed them down. He wasn’t joining a cult here. Just finding work and in this century knowing to defend yourself with weapons was a must. He could get behind some more training with logic like that. And maybe they wouldn’t be as harsh as William was.
There were surprisingly many messages sent back and forth within Monteriggioni daily. Desmond had his days full with either delivering the messages or then training sword or learning how to ride. There were other couriers too but they mainly worked long distance or in shifts with Desmond. But each day Desmond returned to Marcela’s house where food and bath were waiting and Giulia expecting account of his day.
Giulia was learning her way around clothes making and when her free days coincided with Desmond’s, he would teach her about defending herself. About using nails and teeth against attackers. About escaping holds and aiming for vulnerable spots. About kicking rather than punching. Everything he had learnt as a child at Farm. He would not have Giulia be defenseless against anyone.
Fourth chapter and still no hide or hair of the Auditores... Teehee... :D
Chapter 5: Assassins
Some nice discoveries and some not so nice ones
I'm half-way through and... I really didn't think this would devolve into sort of slowburn without romance involved? Oh well...
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Months rushed past and eventually Desmond graduated to delivering messages to countryside and nearby cities. The entire time of living in Monteriggioni, he’d never seen hide nor hair of the Auditores. Mario Auditore visited the garrisons regularly but Desmond managed to time his shifts so that he was delivering messages at the city walls or within streets. Claudia Auditore was semi regular sight around town as she kept herself updated on the state of the city and took note on improvements needed to do with the money Ezio brought home. Maria Auditore was confined to the villa but through gossip Desmond heard she was still grieving and possibly depressed or something.
Ezio Auditore was still in Venice and there were no signs of him returning anytime soon.
Desmond had delivered his messages of the day outside Monteriggioni and was returning when something attracted his attention. He didn’t exactly see anything but he got the feeling of something interesting being nearby and worth investigating.
He turned his horse around and headed to the direction of the hills away from the city.
He found a cave. A cave with bunch of tunnels behind it. Dismounting from the horse, Desmond made his way in.
There were walkways and gates. Water below that stank like sewage. Desmond grinned. This was like a lair from Indiana Jones movies! He couldn’t wait to see what was at the other end. And maybe bring Giulia here too once he knew this place better and could take proper precautions for her safety.
Next Sunday, when people of Monteriggioni were attending a Mass, Desmond took the horse and headed for the cave once again. Marcela had Giulia with her at the church so he didn’t worry for her and as there were always at least some people working on guarding the city, no one wondered by Desmond didn’t appear at the church either. He was one of the few people with skill climbing the walls and thus being fastest courier in Monteriggioni. No room for acrophobia there.
Desmond was careful when climbing the wooden constructions and opening the gates. He doubted he could make it to the end within the time he had today but next time he could be faster and get further. Moreover, there were numerous side branches to check out. Many of them being used for storage.
“This is an escape tunnel…” Desmond realized. One end far away from the walls of Monteriggioni and pointing to the opposite way from the gates while the other… Logic stated it would be in the most guarded place within the walls towards which people would be evacuated… meaning the Auditore Villa. “Shit…” If Desmond were to get all the way to the other end… he’d be breaking and entering to his family’s home, an Assassin Headquarters.
It was terrifying and terribly exciting at the same time.
As opportunities were sparse, it took several weeks before Desmond finally made it to the end of the tunnel. It opened to a space behind some big marble statue that was placed into an alcove among six other statues. And this particular statue had a set of black armor before it and iron gates warding it away from the rest of the circular room.
It’s… grand. All seven statues, the tiled pattern on the floor… It all spoke of money. It also reminded Desmond of pictures of old churches with statues and altar paintings and stained-glass windows. Of course, this space lacked the last two but the impression was there.
Desmond listened carefully but did not hear anyone coming from the staircase at the opposite side of the room. So he slid out from behind the statue and wedged himself between the pedestal of it and the iron gates in order to get a better look on the statue’s face.
The clothing was some very old assassin clothing. Probably naturally as white as the marble here was. And the face hidden beneath the hood was… there was something familiar but Desmond couldn’t say what it was. Notable was the statue’s left hand though. It was missing a finger. If Desmond remembered correctly, it was the original brotherhood which had cut their left ring fingers off in order to use the hidden blade until the blade design had been modified. So this guy here was probably very old and from the beginning of the brotherhood…
“Altaïr…” The boy concluded.
But just then there was a faint rumbling noise from the top of the staircase. Desmond scrambled around the statue pedestal and hid into the tunnel he’d come from. Curse his curiosity but he wanted to know who was coming and what they were thinking.
It was two men. Older and younger. The older one Desmond recognized. Mario Auditore. The younger one… he was wearing assassin whites and carrying some circular stone slab. Mario was addressing him as nipote, nephew. So this was the infamous Ezio.
Ezio was approaching the metal gates and Desmond retreated deeper into the shadows. Briefly, he could see a snake insignia on the stone slab before Ezio placed it on the gate.
“One more left. I have a feeling it will be found in Venezia as well.” Ezio mused aloud.
“You’ve done great job this far, nipote. Soon the Armor of Altaïr will be yours.” Mario told the younger man. “I have a feeling you will be needing it eventually.”
“Probably… It certainly looks good. And additional defense is never remiss.” Ezio agreed and turned to leave…
… when his eyes caught Desmond’s.
Desmond rolled on his feet and began running to the tunnel as quickly as he could. This was bad. He needed to get out of the tunnel and back inside Monteriggioni’s walls… Preferably before anyone started asking questions.
“Ah, Dante! I was looking for you!” Lucio greeted Desmond at the barracks when the boy arrived there (to hide).
“Si! You were from Firenze, right?” The man asked but continued then without affirmation. “Ser Mario has a missive that needs to be delivered to the thieves there, specifically their leader La Volpe.”
“It’s not too urgent message but I think it could be a good exercise for you. You know Firenze and can traverse the roof so it should be no problem for you.” Lucio grinned. “Congrats on your promotion.”
“This feels more like hazing.” Desmond replied but took the missive and tucked it to his pocket. “How hurry am I in or can I go say goodbye to my sister?”
“Go meet with little Giulia so she won’t worry.”
Giulia was not happy that Desmond was leaving for extended time. Especially when…
“I heard from the ladies at market… Papa is back.” She told Desmond quietly. They were crouched in a corner of their room, Giulia rolling some smooth stones beneath her fingers.
“I saw him too.”
Desmond nodded. Giulia glanced towards kitchen where Marcella was cooking dinner and whipping something small for Desmond to eat on the road.
“Do you… Do you think I should tell him?” The girl asked then.
“I… I don’t know if they’d believe us. You can try if you want to… it’s your decision.”
“I see…” Giulia frowned when Desmond got back on his feet. “Come back soon, Dante.”
Finding La Volpe was difficult. There were thieves here and there, watching Desmond as if they knew why he was in Florence. Either Desmond could ask for directions and pay for straight answers… or then he could continue looking on his own. The problem was, he had no idea where to find the fox.
Sighing, Desmond climbed on the roof of the nearest building. No guards here. Good. He looked around for even higher spot. There was a tower in a nearby building… It was calling to him. Desmond’s hands and feet itched to get on top of it.
So he headed towards it.
Climbing was not easy but Desmond managed it. There always seemed to have at least one handhold to reach even if it took a bit looking around sometimes. But eventually he reached a little ledge attached to the tower’s edge. Desmond sat down to take a breath. Florence was bustling around and beneath him. People were going about their businesses. While it was much, much busier than at Monteriggioni, somehow only few voices reached him.
Desmond opened his eyes and… the city seemed to bloom around him. The colors became muted but vibrant at the same time and his awareness of everything around him and beneath him simply expanded.
A guard there, a doctor there, something possibly interesting some blocks away, a safe landing beneath him… And something gold approaching from behind.
Desmond looked over his shoulder at the man balancing on the edge of the tower. He was important.
“Are you La Volpe?” Desmond asked.
“Possibly.” The man replied. “You’ve been looking for me.”
“How do you know? I haven’t told anyone.”
“It’s my job to know. And occasionally novices are sent in my way as a test.”
“Novices?” Desmond frowned. He wasn’t sure what to think about that title. He was just a courier after all… And these colors weren’t going away either.
“Don’t mind it. It isn’t pertinent yet. May I have your name? And the missive from Lucio as well of course.”
“Dante.” The teen reached to give the letter to the man. He blinked, and his vision was normal again but the awareness was still there.
La Volpe was dressed in browns and had a hood up. Desmond swallowed. Probably an associate of the assassins. There really was no escaping them, was there?
Timeline wise this chapter takes place maybe in January or early February 1786... Before Ezio infiltrating Carnevale and killing Marco Barbarigo anyways. Next chapter will be soon after the Carnevale.