Cospirazione (Conspiracy)

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In Florence, Italy, in 1478, in the Pazzi palace, on the Via del Proconsolo, a meeting was taking place. Among the guests were the Pazzi’s eighteen-year-old son, Gioacchino, his friend Romando Salviati and the brooding eldest son of the Borgia family, Luca, who was leaning against a wall as usual. None of the people gathered were friends except the sons of the Pazzis and the Salviatis. The rest of the people there were enemies.

“When should it happen?” Signore Salviati asked, looking at Signore Pazzi.

“Does it really matter?” Luca Borgia asked.

“Yes!” snapped Signore Borgia. Luca glared at his father but didn’t say another word.

“Liberation Day,” suggested Signore Salviati.

“No,” said Signore Borgia. “It should be on the Monday after Easter.”

“Liberation” said Signore Salviati.

“Monday after Easter,” Signore Borgia countered.

“Liberation.”

“Monday after Easter.”

“Liberation.”

“Monday.”

“Liberation.”

“Monday.”

“Why not Easter itself?” Gioacchino interrupted. Signore Borgia and Signore Salviati stopped their argument and turned toward Gioacchino.

“Good point,” said Signore Pazzi.

“He’s your son,” said Signore Borgia. “You're supposed to like everything he says.”

“Not true,” said Luca. “You hate me.”

“Okay!” Romando screamed. “This is getting us nowhere!”

“He’s right,” said Gioacchino.

“I think that we should do it on Easter Sunday like Gioacchino said,” said Romando.

“For once,” said Luca, “I agree with you.”

“You never agree with us,” said Romando.

“Well, then, this is a first,” said Luca.






***

Elwisia Salviati was standing in the entrance hall when Romando and Signore Salviati returned home.

“It’s going to happen on Easter Sunday,” said Romando, reading his sister’s mind. “Our family’s involved in a plot to kill Lorenzo and Guiliano d’Medici.

“Don’t go,” said Elwisia.

“Hey, look, I know that you don’t know a lot about this, but you have to trust that we’ll live and nothing bad will happen.”

“I do.”

“Romando!” Signore Salviati called.

“In here!” Romando called back. Signore Salviati walked into the room.

“Father,” Elwisia said.

“How was the market?” asked Signore Salviati.

“It was loud and noisy, but fun,” said Elwisia.

“You may go again tomorrow,” said Signore Salviati.

“Thank-you,” said Elwisia.

“I’ll leave you to talk to Romando,” said Signore Salviati and left.

“Tell me everything,” said Elwisia, the moment the door slammed shut behind their father.

“How many times...!” Signora Salviati’s voice rang through the house.

“Sorry,” Elwisia called back, not caring about her interruption.

“I can’t tell you more than I already have,” said Romando, running his fingers through his sister’s long dark hair. Signora Salviati firmly believed that since Elwisia was fifteen, she had to wear her hair up, but Elwisia was always removing her pins and letting it flow down her back the way she used to when she was younger. As for Romando and Signore Salviati they wanted Elwisia to be happy.

“Why are you doing it?”

“It was Signore Borgia’s idea. He has wanted to get the Medici family back for stealing from them thirty or forty years ago. It was some heirloom from Germany or England. It was probably some plate that’s easily replaceable or something like that. They just want an excuse to kill them.”

“That’s ridiculous”

“I know. But no one can convince Signore Borgia of that. Even his son...” Romando stopped there. Elwisia knew what had made him do that. He and his friend Gioacchino had disliked Luca Borgia for years. Whenever the name came up, the two could go on for hours about how much they hated him. Elwisia had been in the middle of the conversations before, and they were not pleasant.


***

A few days later, Elwisia found herself being taken to a church that she had never been to before. She had always gone to services at Santa Maria del Fiore, but now she was going to Basilica di Santa Croce. Elwisia glanced back as she saw that her father and brother weren’t coming.

“Stay there until I send for you, and be brave,” Romando had whispered in her ear, before heading off with Gioacchino and their fathers. They were going to meet Luca, his father and the others who would be involved at Santa Maria del Fiore.

There was no talking on the way to Santa Maria del Fiore. Everyone was too preoccupied with what they were about to do. They were about to commit treason.

Romando, Gioacchino and Luca slid into an upper balcony one after the other.

“There they are,” Luca whispered.

“Stop...” Gioacchino started. Romando clapped a hand over Gioacchino’s mouth.

“Quiet” Romando snapped softly. Gioacchino nodded and Romando removed his hand from his friend’s face. “Don’t forget again”

“Ssshhh” said Luca, so quietly that Romando could barely hear him. He’s got the quiet thing down. At least I won’t have to touch him unnecessarily. Romando thought.






***

On the floor of Santa Maria del Fiore, Lorenzo and Guiliano d’Medici were walking up to the front of the church. That’s when Signore Borgia gave the signal and slashed Guiliano d’Medici. Guiliano didn’t falter. He unsheathed his sword and slashed at Signore Borgia, wounding him in the arm. Luca prepared to jump over the balcony. Gioacchino grabbed him.

“What are you doing you useless piece of trash?” asked Luca. He wasn’t quiet. He wasn’t screaming. He was neutral, but he was angry.

“You’ll die if you jump,” said Gioacchino as quietly and calmly as he could under the circumstances. “And you won’t be any good to your father. You’ll be dead”. Luca nodded and resumed his spot next to Gioacchino once again. Romando looked. Signore Pazzi was gesturing to the three of them.

“Now can I go?” asked Luca.

“Yes.” said Romando. Luca raced for the stairway and crept down it, silent as a prowling cat. His darker coloring and black hair made him nearly impossible to see in the dark. Romando and Gioacchino followed him as quietly as possible.

Luca was down the stairs and half way towards Lorenzo by the time Romando and Gioacchino were down the stairs. Five minutes later, a scream erupted. Romando looked up from removing his sword from Guiliano. The scream was Signore Pazzi.

“He’s getting away!” Signore Pazzi screamed. “Get him! Get him! Get him!” Luca rushed into the action.

“What’s going on?” asked Gioacchino approaching Romando.

“No idea,” said Romando.

Lorenzo escaped as Signore Borgia leapt past them towards his son.






***

Lorenzo d’Medici watched in horror as Luca Borgia stabbed his brother again and again. Then he didn’t see him again until he felt pain in his left arm. He looked again. Blood flowed from a cut. Then, he saw Luca whip around and stab his brother again. Then, he saw another boy of about the same age stab Guiliano, then a third. Lorenzo wanted to stay with his brother, but he also knew that if he stayed, he would be killed. He would run away and return for his brother’s body later. Amid the mayhem, Lorenzo escaped through the open church doors and out into the square in front of Santa Maria del Fiore. Where should I go? Lorenzo wondered. He didn’t know where else in Italy he had family. His grandfather had moved to Florence and his father had grown up here and had never told Guiliano and Lorenzo where any of their other relatives lived.

The people of Florence had heard the screams, yells and the clash of swords coming from the church. They rushed into the square. Among them was Elwisia Salviati. She looked for Romando, but didn’t see him. At the base of the steps leading up to the church was Lorenzo d’Medici, wounded but alive. Elwisia heard the crowd cheering, but she didn’t care if her ruler was still alive and breathing. She only wanted to feel Romando beside her one more time. She knew she was risking getting killed or being found by her father, but she didn’t care about that either. She stood there in a crowd of people, not caring, only wanting to see Romando.






***

Luca Borgia was taking all his anger out on Guiliano’s body. Guiliano was already dead, but Luca didn’t seem to notice. Finally, Romando walked over and slapped Luca.

“What was that for?” Luca asked. He looked into the blazing amber eyes of Romando Salviati.

“He’s been dead for the last five minutes, Luca,” said Romando. “You can stop stabbing him.”

“It doesn’t matter,” said Luca and stabbed him again. Gioacchino slid up behind Luca and drew the sword from Guiliano’s body. Guiliano’s blood flowed across the black-and-white marble floor. With his other hand, Gioacchino slapped Luca again. “I probably deserved that one.”

“That you did,” said Romando.

“You’re a good fighter, Luca,” said Gioacchino. “You just need to learn to stop when someone’s already dead.”

“Are you lying to me?” asked Luca. Luca had always been dark and mysterious and Gioacchino and Romando had always made a point to stay out of Luca’s way, because when he got angry, and there were swords nearby, it was usually a good idea to run in the opposite direction.

“Run, Romando!” Signore Salviati screamed. Romando looked up from his conversation with Gioacchino and Luca. “Lorenzo is sure to return to take his revenge. Take Gioacchino and Luca with you.”

“Don’t be stupid,” said Luca, taking his sword from Gioacchino’s hand. “I’ll stay here with you.”

“Romando! Gioacchino! Go!” Signore Salviati screamed. They lost no more time, and ran out of Santa Maria del Fiore.






***

Romando and Gioacchino ran past Elwisia.

“Romando?” asked Elwisia. She didn’t know if it was her brother or not. His nearly black hair was tousled and his clothes were stained with blood. Romando turned.

“Elwisia?” asked Romando.

“Romando!” Elwisia screamed.

“You were supposed to stay at Santa Croce,” said Romando. It was one thing to be sharp with Luca, who wasn’t actually an enemy, but wasn’t exactly a friend, and quite another to be sharp with a family member, but he was angry, and when he was angry, what he wanted to say calmly, tended to turn into yelling no matter where he was or whom he spoke to.

“I’m sorry,” said Elwisia.

“It’s fine,” said Romando. “Just next time, do as you’re told until someone comes for you.”

“Alright,” said Elwisia.

“Tell you what, you can go home now,” said Romando.

“Really?” asked Elwisia.

“Go, Elwisia. Go”. Elwisia nodded to Romando and Gioacchino and ran off down an alley towards Via Alessandro Manzoni. Romando looked after her for a second.

“We should go,” said Gioacchino. Romando nodded and together they ran off into the opposite direction from their homes.

The square where they skidded to a halt had a fountain. Romando ducked his head into the fountain, Gioacchino followed suit. Then, water flying behind them, they continued their escape.

“Where should we go?” asked Gioacchino.

“Venice,” said Romando.

“I’m not running to Venice.”

“You don’t have to,” said Romando. “We’re going to steal two of the Borgia’s finest horses and ride to Venice."

“Do you think Venice is far enough north? And besides, it might not be the best.”

“Will you shut up?” asked Romando. “I know that. We just need to get out of Florence.”





***

Romando and Gioacchino were almost successful in getting out of Florence. They stole horses from the Borgia stable on the outskirts of Florence, and rode to the gates. That’s when their problems began. Standing at the gates, looking as dark and mysterious as possible in the bright sunlight, stood none other than Luca, leaning against the wall just like he had done during the meeting when they made the plan to try and murder Lorenzo and Guiliano d’Medici.

“Thought you’d steal our two finest horses, did you?” Luca asked. He stopped leaning against the wall and approached Gioacchino and Romando.

“I guess you could say that,” said Gioacchino.

“You guess?” Luca questioned. “It looks pretty obvious that you’re trying to leave Florence.”

“Really?” Romando asked. “We didn’t know.”

“Of course you did,” said Luca.

“Maybe we did,” Gioacchio countered.

“You’re the dark and mysterious one,” said Romando. “Why don’t you try and figure it out.”

“No,” said Luca. “I know it was you. You stole them, Romando Salviati. You stole them, Gioacchino Pazzi. You did it. I know it was you. Tell me it was you. My father has commanded that I stay here until the person who...”

“Stop,” said Romando. Luca looked up. No one had ever interrupted him before in his life. “You’re the one who likes to kill. Why must you bring us back to the square? Why not kill us right here? Save your father and the city of Florence the trouble of getting rid of our bodies.”

“You’re the one who spies in their own houses,” said Gioacchino.

“You do it more often than me,” Luca countered.

“No, I don’t!” Gioacchino snapped.

“Look at your family history and you’ll see that half the people in your family were spies. Look in the Salviati line and you’ll see none of that,” said Romando.

“You’re turning into a Medici,” said Luca.

“How could you say that?” Romando snapped.

“You’re growing closer to the Pazzi faction,” Luca whispered in a dangerously low voice.

“Yes, because their son is my best friend,” Romando replied

“Then you’ve turned into my enemy as well,” Luca turned back to his usual defiant self.

“We were always enemies. Nothing has changed,” Gioacchino interrupted.

“You hate me more,” said Luca.

“That’s ridiculous,” said Gioacchino. “I hate you just as much as I ever did. No more. No less.”

“Of course you do,” said Romando.

“We’re getting nowhere,” said Gioacchino

“A duel would get you somewhere,” said Luca.

“Yes to your grave,” said Romando, knowing all too well that if it came to a duel, he and Gioacchino would die and Luca would be the victor.

“You’d be the one in the grave. I’d be the one standing on top,” said Luca, voicing Romando’s thoughts.

“Perhaps. But how do you know the outcome?” Gioacchino questioned.

“It’s how it happens every time,” said Luca. “I win. My opponent loses.”

“I think your reign as the best was over long ago,” said Romando. “Let us through.”






***

Luca watched...his friends? His enemies? He didn’t really know what to call them. All he knew was that he was done with collaborating with the Salviatis and the Pazzis. He’d only done it once because it would make it look like the Borgias were finally starting to get along with their enemies, which wasn’t at all the case and he’d wanted revenge against the Medicis for something that he didn’t really understand despite Signore Borgia explaining the reasons to him a million times. For his father, it was a question of getting back what had been stolen from the Borgia family thirty or forty years ago, for Luca it was a question of honor and preserving his family’s name. Luca started getting lost in his own thoughts and ignoring the fact that Romando and Gioacchino were standing before him.

“Luca!” Gioacchino snapped. Luca was brought back to the present.

“What?” he asked, annoyed that Gioacchino had interrupted his thoughts.

“You’re getting lost in your thoughts again,” said Gioacchino, stating the obvious.

“What do you want now?” Luca asked.

“You’re the one who stopped us from going to Venice,” said Romando.

“Running away?” Luca asked.

“We were involved in the killing of Guiliano d’Medici,” said Romando.

“So was I,” said Luca.

“We know,” said Gioacchino.

“You are dead,” said Luca.

“We’re very much alive.” said Romando.

“Let me explain,” said Luca. “Lorenzo d’Medici is apt to kill anyone who was involved in his brother’s murder. I’m to bring you back to the square.”

“Do it,” said Romando. “I don’t care. I never wanted to kill Guiliano d’Medici. It was my father. If I have to I’ll die. It would be better that way. In fact, I’m starting to see why the plot was planned in the first place. The Medicis were getting way too powerful. The Pazzis, Borgias and Salviatis didn’t like it.”

“Is that what you think?” Luca asked.

“Those are my beliefs if that’s what you want to get out of me,” Romando replied.

“You can start preparing for death,” said Luca. Luca glanced over his shoulder and called: “Cart!”

A moment later, a man with graying hair falling into his face, sitting on a cart, appeared.

“Are these the prisoners that Lorenzo d’Medici is turning the city upside down looking for?” asked the man.

“Two of them anyway” said Luca.

“I never even stabbed Guiliano d’Medici,” said Romando, lying smoothly. “He’s the one you want.” Romando pointed to Luca. The man slid out of his seat to the ground and then swung first Gioacchino, then Romando into the box at the back, before looking at them.

“Him?” asked the man. “He’s helping us round them up”

“He’s the one who did most of the stabbing,” said Gioacchino. “I had to stop him from tearing Guiliano d’Medici’s body into pieces."

“Get going. Take them back to the square,” Luca ordered.

“As you say, Signore Borgia,” said the man. The man urged the horse into a walk and the cart disappeared down the road, Romando and Gioacchino stayed in the back as silent as mice.





***

When the man drove them into Florence, Lorenzo d’Medici was in the square waiting for them. On a plinth, now clean, was Guiliano d’Medici.

“We didn’t do it!” Gioacchino screamed.

“It was Luca Borgia!” Romando added, screaming as well.

“I think I’ll decide that,” said Lorenzo d’Medici.

“The one you want is Luca Borgia,” said Romando. “He’s the one who stabbed your brother the most times.”

“He’s helping me,” said Lorenzo.

“We know,” said Gioacchino. “It was he who caught us.”

“We were trying to escape to Venice,” said Romando. “We don’t want to be involved in this feud any longer. We’ve been involved in it our entire lives”

“I know.” said Lorenzo.

“We want be able to live and not have to worry about getting stabbed every five seconds,” said Gioacchino.

“And this is why you want to leave Florence?” asked Lorenzo.

“Yes,” said Romando.

“Kill them!” called Lorenzo and turned his back on them.

“Wait! No! Don’t!” a voice called. Everyone turned. Luca Borgia was running across the square.

“Lorenzo d’Medici!” Luca called. Luca had decided that Gioacchino and Romando had spoken rightly at the gates. He wanted to uphold his family’s honor, and the only way he could see of doing that was to admit to Lorenzo d’Medici that he was the one who was mostly responsible for killing Guiliano before Lorenzo’s decision that Gioacchino and Romando were to be killed for their crimes, which had, in truth, been inflicted by himself, had been done to them.

“Signore Borgia, what are you doing here?” asked Lorenzo.

“You can’t kill Gioacchino Pazzi and Romando Saviati. At least not until you kill me,” said Luca.

“Tell him why that is, Luca,” said Romando. “Tell him how you went crazy stabbing his brother and how Gioacchino had to stop you.”

“Is this true, Signore Borgia?” asked Lorenzo.

“Yes, Signore,” said Luca. “It is as Signore Pazzi said. I did go crazy over stabbing your brother and he had to stop me.”

“Since Gioacchino Pazzi and Romando Salviati were still there, I’m still going to punish them, but you, Luca Borgia, are going to die,” said Lorenzo. “I’ll have to decide about the other two, but you are going to die with the others who have been confirmed to be a part of the conspiracy that killed Guiliano. Signores Pazzi and Salviati, you may return to your families, Signore Borgia, you will now be transported to the dungeons for execution.”





***

A few days later, Gioacchino Pazzi and Romando Salviati were in the square waiting for the executions of several members of the conspiracy, which included Luca and Signore Borgia and several others that Gioacchino and Romando knew by sight, but had never spoken to. Then, the executioner, his black hood covering his face came out, and behind him came two people that made Gioacchino and Romando gasp. It was their fathers. Signore Pazzi and Signore Salviati followed the executioner up the path. They stood with Luca and Signore Borgia.

As Signore Pazzi and Signore Salviati stepped forward to await their turn on the block, Lorenzo d’Medici, now sole ruler of Florence, came forward. Then he signaled for Signore Pazzi to step forward and lay his head on the block before the executioner. Romando and Gioacchino tried to ignore the executioner and sounds of the blade going through the necks of their fathers one after the other and then, it was over. The heads of Signore Pazzi, Signore Borgia, Signore Salviati and everyone else who had been involved in the conspiracy were now dead. There was just one more person awaiting their turn. Luca. But Lorenzo d’Medici seemed to want to take his time with the last execution of the day. Gioacchino and Romando watched Luca and Lorenzo d’Medici from their places near the front of the crowd.

“Take him back to his cell,” said Lorenzo at last. “He’ll die tomorrow. He needs to suffer a little longer.”

“Then I’ll take my own life,” said Luca. The crowd gasped.

“I won’t allow it.”

“You’ll have to. You won’t be able to stop me.”

“Then let me do it for him!” Before Romando could stop him, Gioacchino had leapt onto the platform and was now wrestling the ax away from the executioner. Romando was right behind where the executioner was standing. Without waiting for a signal of any kind, and acting on pure instinct, Romando grabbed the back of the executioner’s clothes, and pulled. The executioner tumbled down into clump at the foot of the platform where Romando had been standing not three minutes before. Romando ignored the fact that the stairs were close by, he grabbed the edge of platform and jumped on.

“Why are you here?” Luca asked.

“We’re trying to help you,” said Gioacchino.

“You’ve never helped me,” said Luca.

“Then you have your chance,” said Romando. “Kill yourself now.” Romando whispered the last part directly into Luca’s ear. Romando took the sword from Gioacchino, and handed it to Luca. “Do it.” He whispered. Luca nodded.

For a second, to those observing, it looked like the families of Pazzi, Borgia and Salviati were putting on a show of swearing that they would never fight again. But the next instant squashed that.

“I can’t do it,” Luca whispered.

“Then I’ll kill you,” Romando whispered back.

“Kill me like the enemies we are,” whispered Luca. “I wouldn’t want to go any other way.”

“I won’t deprive myself of the chance. You can be sure of that,”

“Then do it,” Luca turned his back to Romando and Romando took the sword and raised it high in the air, then he stabbed Luca through the back and Luca Borgia fell. “Do honor to the people of Florence, Romando Salviati, Gioacchino Pazzi”. Luca whispered, before sinking back into Romando’s arms.

From their places in the crowd, the Florentines watched the spectacle and from their places on the platform Gioacchino Pazzi and Romando Salviati followed the invisible soul of Luca Borgia up to heaven with their eyes. Romando looked down at the crowd. They were aghast, then, back at the steps where Lorenzo d’Medici looked him straight in the eye and nodded his approval.





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