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The sky was smeared with a havoc of grays and creams, it didn’t inspire artist Leonardo; instead it diminished his creative thought process. Leonardo was perched on his chair gazing through an immaculate window, feeling and absorbing the last of his liquor. Suddenly he felt his eyes droop and the last of his energy perish. Unconsciousness was not a frontier away, but only a few moments away. Goddess Porrima chose this time to intrude on Leonardo’s slumber and put her plans into action. She descended from the melancholy sky and mustered up her powers. The Great Porrima gradually let the electricity flow through her veins and out of her fingertips in Leonardo’s direction. Once she finished she fled the room and returned to the heavens quietly. She resumed watching Leonardo’s figure from above, anticipating the works of her magic.
Leonardo’s bloodshot eyes flew open with agony. His fists clenched and unclenched not knowing why there was a spasm of pain racking through his body. He stood up unsteadily, his thoughts and actions driven by pure instinct. Leonardo walked over to his desk and snatched a blank canvas in the closest of proximity and started painting. He dipped his brush in lush colors and streaked the canvas with fluent strokes. His eyes and mind were not registering what his hands and arms were doing; it was almost like he was blind to his own movements. An inexplicable force was compelling Leonardo to do what he was doing. Shaky with trepidation and fear Leonardo returned to his normal state and regained his composure. He stepped back to comprehend his artwork and gasped once he saw what his own fingers have created.
The canvas was filled to the brim with devastation and utmost destruction. In the painting, flames and embers rose to the inky sky basking in its glory. The inferno was spreading and engulfing people, forests, wooden houses, carriages, and everything else in its path. Angry reds, oranges, and grays flecked the canvas with its immoral intentions. Leonardo’s body began to quiver once he heard a voice eerily whisper in his mind. It slithered into the deepest nooks and corners of his brain and began its speech.
“The ever burning Hephaestus is angered by your people. On the banks of Italy, hunters pry and kill the most innocent of creatures. They chop wood down for the worldliest excuses and live in grandeur and opulence. Murders, crimes, and injustice… the list goes on. As king of your nation have you done anything in your power to bring your attention to these people? But no these happenings don’t bother the enraged Hephaestus; your use of his gift is what sets him ablaze. Flames are used to burn those who do not follow the proper religion. Fire! It is used as a poison to drain the life of a being. At the stroke of midnight tomorrow Hephaestus will burn your kingdom in vain. In loathing and blatant disgust he will smolder you and your entire realm to the ground.”
Once the voice departed Leonardo’s mind, he fell to his knees and sobbed in anguish. His whole life and earnings will soon be ripped out of his very hands. Leonardo reached out to the painting and studied the glistening strokes and lines, trying to decipher which part of Italy lay before him. His eyes and forehead were scrunched in concentration, but Leonardo failed to interpret his own making. He rose to his feet and left the palace’s wine room.
His palms began to sweat as he progressively ambled toward his peaceful wife. Mona was cocooned in silk sheets and heavy quilts hiding her slender figure. Her black hair was fastened with a maroon convoluted clip and her pale face and forehead were exposed to the cool air. Leonardo caressed her cheek and gently touched her closed eyelids. Her skin was as soft as the feathers of a newborn duckling. There had not been a single day he spent leaving his wife behind. A dull throbbing pain began to surface in the dip pits of Leonardo’s heart. Mona was the one who held him down, the anchor that made him grounded at all times. Now he would have to set things right without her. He couldn’t risk losing the most essential being in his life. Leonardo slipped his silver wedding ring off his bone white finger and tenderly placed it beside Mona, not knowing whether he’d be back to see her again. Leonardo let out a sigh and left his bedroom dressed and armed with a sword.
At nearly two o’clock in the night Leonardo was sure there would not be a soul in sight, so he shielded his face with his navy blue cape and set out as a regular commoner, not as a king. Leonardo opened the palace doors and escaped into the fields of green, approaching a timber brown cross and enormous wooden church doors. He touched his forehead, heart, and then both shoulders before he reached into his pockets for the key every king of Florence, Italy is entrusted with. The ridges of the rusty key dug into his palm as he inaudibly recited the sacred oath of Catholicism. Leonardo slipped the key into the keyhole and unlocked the sanctified doors of the church.
He took out a match and lit the first candle he saw. The church hall was instantly lit with a dim flickering glow. Just observing the flame and sensing the slight heat radiating from the candle was enough to make Leonardo tremble with fright. He edged inside and stooped down before Christ, feeling the prickly exterior of the church floor. Leonardo finally let all his pent up frustration out and let the tears flow easily from his heart. He was the son of the great Michelangelo and had never lived up to any of the several eminent precedents his father left behind. Burnings of living humans amongst his people? The very thought itself seemed preposterous and inhumane, but actual practices of these thoughts were happening right in Florence. His failure as king seemed to grow more and more evident. Leonardo’s shoulders became more hunched as he allowed his thoughts to trail to worse scenarios.
Up in the heavens God Hephaestus enjoyed the sight before him. The sadistic God took joy from the weeping Leonardo and longed to trouble him more. He sent out his treacherous spirits to do just that. They laughed with delight and entered the church cloaked in invisibility. The ghostly spirits began shoving and pushing the poignant Leonardo. He stirred with fear and jumped to his feet, his hand already moving to his sword. Once he fell back on his rear due to a concealed force he freed his sword from his sheath and gained a fighting stance.
Leonardo ran out of the church and jumped into a wintry stream knowing whatever was bothering him will certainly follow. He began to see the outlines of the creatures attacking him as they slipped into the stream with him. Without hesitation he rammed his emerald encrusted sword twice into both imperceptible bodies. The wounded spirits scuttled back into heaven and fell at Hephaestus’s feet. They rapidly and bitterly explained the ferocity and valor Leonardo possessed. The almighty Hephaestus scoffed at their remarks and didn’t let their words get to him.
Meanwhile, sodden and exhausted Leonardo was left behind in the dark stream in a puddle of guilt. He had never murdered a soul in his life. Leonardo looked down at his hands and realized that they were responsible for the cruelty he just displayed. He enumerated a small prayer to the heavens to request the proper burial and peace in the afterlife for the two creatures he had just slaughtered.
Goddess Porrima couldn’t take Leonardo’s sorrow anymore and stepped down from the pitch-black sky. She stood in front of him in her genuine form. Her hair was adorned with a floral wreath and a satin taupe dress clothed her body. Serenity emitted off of her, like heat radiating from the sun. With her wings unleashed and face glowing with knowledge it was apparent that she was the miracle Leonardo was truthfully waiting for. Leonardo stumbled out of the water with awe and bowed to the splendor before him.
“Please rise,” she said in her kind voice as she signaled for him to get up.
“Of course!” Leonardo said. He was quick to oblige to the Goddess.
“I am Goddess Porrima, the seer and teller of the future. I have shown you what Hephaestus will do to your kingdom soon. Am I right?”
Leonardo nodded, while his hands and body continued to shiver.
“Then why do I not see any change within your land? The future is not set in stone; it changes along with the changes of decisions, actions, and thoughts. You should use that to your advantage Leonardo! You shouldn’t break at the seams whenever you merely think of what could transpire to your sovereignty. You should be strong and try to change Hephaestus’s mind with all of your will. That way you would die along with your province trying. That’s all anyone could ask of you. Hephaestus will start his burning near the Campanile. Good luck, you are equipped with all the skills you need All you have to do is simply utilize them.”
With that, Goddess Porrima left and ascended back into the great above, leaving behind Leonardo empowered and full of intent. He raced to his horse stables and whistled for his most desired horse. With aim and regained confidence fire returned to Leonardo’s eyes as he set out on his mission to Campanile.
* * *
Sunlight slipped through Leonardo’s eyelids distorting his brief, but deep sleep. He woke up to see the sun in high in the sky, almost daunting him into sitting back and relaxing for a while. His back was leaning against the bell tower Campanile that took all night and morn to get to. His hands were tainted with grime and the outlines of two reins, showcasing how hard he was clutching onto his horse. Leonardo’s face was also shrouded with a layer of grime. Leonardo took his time getting to his feet as he chastised himself on the amount of scarce time he wasted. He dug into his pockets to retrieve a coin to purchase a meal, but out of the corner of his eye he saw a woman with a belly swollen with life sitting in a dark corner. Leonardo took out a few more coins and pressed them into her open palm.
He then quickly but secretively got to work. With gallant and speed he trotted to a divisional office nearby and wiped his face clean with a towel. There was no need to hide his face in a place where he would not be bombarded with questions. Leonardo called for one of his several secretaries and demanded a high priority meeting in the middle of town five minutes to midnight.
As the daylight disappeared and the dark night sky took its place Leonardo stepped onto a jewel embossed podium and cleared his throat.
“Greetings my fellow people. We are under the brink of destruction. If we continue to act the way we do. If we continue to burn people with flames left and right for the measly reason of religion our city and kingdom will fall. We must stop. We must vow to never do injustice to another in our lives. If not, then all of us, including me, will have to pay the price.”
Faces in the crowd, young, old, weak, and strong seemed to dismiss every sentence Leonardo was saying. They failed to realize the legitimacy and sincerity behind his every remark. Leonardo rapidly became worried with panic.
“Please there is no time! Repeat after me!” bellowed Leonardo.
Meanwhile, the firmament above the throng and town hall was rapidly enlightened with sparks of crimson red. It emanated a collection of gasps of disbelief and cries of shock. Fire began to fall upon the ground. It set alight trees, fields, pastures, and homes of numerous. Leonardo muttered an oath of appease to calm the almighty Hephaestus, but failed terribly. He then approached another tactic; it was almost if a door of opportunity had been opened.
“Repeat after me fellow commoners...We shall not misuse the breath of fire! We shall not abuse the endowment that belongs to the immortal Hephaestus! Please hear us out!” yelled Leonardo.
Leonardo’s voice reached out to all beings in the crowd and they did as they were told. They chanted it over and over again. Repeated it line after line, minute after minute, until their throats were parched and their lips were chapped. All eyes were fixed on the bloody sky asking for forgiveness, begging for acceptance.
Men laid on the muddy ground as soil passed through their grubby toes and fingers. Woman had their arms outstretched towards the heavens waiting and listening for any change in Hephaestus’s heart.
Above in the heavens Goddess Porrima rushed to God Hephaestus and fell to his feet to alter his adamant mindset. She then slowly saw Hephaestus’s eyes return to familiarity and his clenched fists unclench with the release of tension. His scrunched forehead relaxed and smoothed out as he looked down to see weeping Goddess Porrima. He lifted her up by her shoulders and nodded acutely once, granting her wish.
He raised his palm in the direction of Florence and replaced the chaos with serene peace. The sky gradually faded into its habitual black and the fires were put out. Leonardo looked around and a grin tugged at the corners of his lips, he saved his city! A cloud of russet smoke began to billow upward into the air and Leonardo instantly vowed to mend all damages he had cost Florence. He began to calculate and take authority of his kingdom for the first time in a long time.
Just a second before he began to propel himself onto his horse, he felt a drop of water make its way down his cheek. Initially he thought it was his very own tears of joy, but looked up to see a mass of dark clouds gather in the sky. Water beads drenched Leonardo clean of qualms and distress, as he outstretched his arms and faced his palms upwards. He chuckled and welcomed rain with open arms for the first time in his life.