THE FLAMES OF FLORENCE: DA VINCI'S DISCIPLES BOOK THREE
It moves forward whether we wish it to or not.â
Their faces had changed. Time had marched across some, leaving its tracks. New faces had sprouted like the first crocuses of spring. Yet whatever form they took, they stood by each other as life spun its web
They stood in the sun now, free of the shadows, with its warmth fluttering down upon their shoulders. She had been one of the first, one of the founders, a tender, delicate bloom of wisdom. She had been with them at the other funeral, that of the man whose life had made the transformation in theirs possible. The man who had changed all of Florence, planting seeds of it, reveling in their blossoms, and sharing their glory with the world. He had known the importance of art, had tended to it the way it needed to flourish, as they had flourished.
Together, they had survived as Florence had survived: barely. The Medicis, doomed since the death of Lorenzo âIl Magnificoâ deâ Medici, had been ousted. War had weakened Florenceâs trunk as well as her branches. And strangeness had descended upon them in the form of a tonsured, cloaked figure, a shadow whose length grew ever longer, all encompassing.
Hope born on audacity and raised on bravery had changed them. As they watched their dearest friend lowered into the ground where her ashes would live forever, they knew they too would remain eternal; they would be, now and foreverâ¦Da Vinciâs Disciples.
Isabetta and Gianetta walked to the mercato as they did most days. Both understood the depth of kindness Andreano and Mattea had shown them, taking them in as they had done. For Gianetta, her cousinâs kindness went far deeper, for he accepted his role as her guardian without hesitation. They returned such kindness, though in a small manner, by making for the markets early each morning, to buy the freshest fruit and vegetables the farmers delivered to the city. As a widow, Isabetta walked about as she pleased, no chaperone necessary, nor a veil upon her head. Gianetta, a young unmarried woman, could never be seen out of doors without her veil, not a terrible hardship with its embroidered lace sprinkledminutely by small jewels.
âI hope there is some fresh lamb,â Gianetta chirped. âWe havenot been able to find any in quite some time.â
âThat would be nice,â Isabetta agreed.
Both women struggled to speak of inconsequential things. Life had been far too full of serious conversations; at times, the mind needed the triviality of life for it to feel real.
âAnd perhapsâahia!â Gianettaâs scream pierced the still morning air.
Isabetta spun, seeing the three boysâall robed in whiteârushing away from them, one holding Gianettaâs veil in her handâstrands and roots of her hair still within the teeth of itsc ombâhaving yanked it from her head. With swiftness of foot, Isabetta caught up to them, ran before them, and stopped.
âMay we help you, signora?â the oldest of the three, perhaps as old as twelve or thirteen, asked of her.
Her lip curled as she fell on them hard.
âHow dare you!â she spat at them.
The boys looked the very portrait of innocent incomprehension.
âWe do nothing more than our job.â
âYour job?â Isabettaâs head rocked back and forth as she scoffed at them. âIt is your job to accost young women?â
âNo, signora,â another replied, a golden haired child no more than ten. âWe are to remove allâ¦allâ¦â his eyes rolled up in hishead as he searched for the words, ââ¦all vain glories from the
streets of Florence.â
âVain glories? What nonsense is this?â
âAs I said, signora,â the first spoke again, taking a step toward her. If he hoped it would make her take a step back, he was disappointed.
âWe do our job. Nothing more and nothing less.â
âAnd this is what your master tells you to do?â
The boy puffed up his chest. âSÃ¬, signora.â
Isabetta longed to slap the smirk from his face. Instead, she leaned over and leaned down, her head only inches from the oldest.
âTell your master, Isabetta Fioravanti believes he is deranged and dangerous.â
The boy twitched beneath his pristine robe, his agitation and anger longing for release. His hands fisted by his side as his eyes narrowed to slits.
âGo on, boy,â Isabetta goaded, âif you dare. Look in my eye and ask yourself if I could not slap you raw.â She held up a hand. âNo, not could I, but would I?â
Their gazes locked together in battle, neither giving way.
âCome,â the smallest of the boys pulled upon his cohort.
â Come, Alberto.â
Alberto, as he was, began to step away, stepping backward from them.
âGrazie, signora,â he bowed to Isabetta, âfor the gift of your name.â
He need not say more, nor did she.
Only when they were out of sight did Isabetta return to
Gianettaâs side, examining her head, finding pinpricks of blood on her scalp.
âDo you feel well enough for the mercato?â Isabetta asked of her.
Gianetta nodded her stinging head, covered it as best she could with her small lace handkerchief retrieved from her waist purse, and they began to walk once more.
âYou act rashly,â Gianetta chastised her.
âThat man is a rash,â Isabetta responded, âand I believe we have just caught it.â
Gianetta grabbed her arm. âYou and I?â
Isabetta shook her head. âNo. Florence.â