Disclaimer: this particular version of historical characters and situations owned by RAI.

Spoilers: for the show's first two seasons and for history thereafter. All the character deaths are historical.

Timeline: In the night of Lorenzo de' Medici's death on April 8th, 1492, with flashbacks going back through Lorenzo's life, including the show time frame

He could sense the outrage and disbelief in his children when he asked for the Domenican. „But Father, he hates you," Piero protested. „He'll boast you've surrendered to him at the last."

And this, right there, was why Lorenzo had to endure Savonarola's presence at his deathbed. It had nothing to do with his own soul. But Savonarola had captured the soul of Florence for now, and if Lorenzo didn't make peace with him, Piero, who was too young, too rash and too proud to start his rule with a reconciliatory gesture, would suffer the consequences.

„On the contrary. He won't allow himself to be bested in Christian forgiveness by a pagan like me," Lorenzo said wrily, and he could hear Angelo Poliziano snorting through tears. Trust Poliziano to get the joke.

His oldest son still exuded anger, though he visibly tried to surpress it. Lorenzo wondered if he'd ever been so young, so unguarded with his emotions. He must have been, before. When he'd been as naive as Piero now, and believed that a man attacking your family's reputation and your own character was the worst kind of enemy there could be.

„Piero, I want to be buried at San Lorenzo with Giuliano," he said, as the past threatened to engulf him again. He didn't just mean the church but the tomb, which had been originally meant for his father and now provided his brother with his last rest.

This time, it was his daughter Lucrezia who protested. „But Mama is…"

He stretched out his hand to touch her face. His eldest daughter, a mother herself now, bearing the name of a man who'd died on Lorenzo's orders. A marriage ensuring that the Salviati family would finally be appeased. „I loved your mother dearly, and I still miss her. But Giuliano has waited long enough."

One of the most subtle and cruel betrayals of death and memory was this: they turned a living, breathing person into a painting, beautiful and eternal, yes, but unchanging, and robbed of dimension. People thought to comfort Lorenzo by telling him his brother was not forgotten in Florence, even many years after his death. Which was true, but the Giuliano everyone mentioned every now and then with wistful sighs, the golden boy, hero of Angelo Poliziano's poetry, Mars in the painting Sandro had finally recreated, that man had less and less to do with the brother Lorenzo had grown up with, who puked on Lorenzo's shoes after his first hangover, had an annoying habit of stealing the cover when they were both children lying in the same bed, made fun of Lorenzo's first sonnets only to copy them secretly. They still praised his perfect beauty, and less and less people alive recalled he'd had some uneven teeth which made his crooked smile not perfect but endearing. They called him a lamb led to the slaughter, and the fiery temper which made Giuliano at times resemble an alley cat tearing bloody stripes off anyone going near it was forgotten along with his scathing wit. In short, public memory betrayed Giuliano all over again, and there was no one Lorenzo could hang for this.

Lorenzo hadn't been able to leave his bed for a while, as the gout which crippled his father finally caught up with him, but he could tell the precise moment when Girolamo Savonarola arrived in Carreggi regardless. The low key conversations which had filled not just Lorenzo's bedroom but the anteroom and floors, those conversations surrounding him with murmuring waves of sound died away and left silence long before the Prior of San Marco swept into the room. And there he was: Savonarola, zealous crusader against the evils of corruption not just in the clergy, announcer of the end times, who didn't see the fact he owed his position in Florence to the Medici as a reason not to preach against Lorenzo as a despot, sinner and corrupting influence on the young.

He'd already made Sandro Botticelli turn away from what Savonarola deemed to be pagan subjects, Sandro who'd sought to depict the beauty of God reflected in creation all his life. Young Cesare Borgia, who was studying with Lorenzo's son Giovanni at the university of Pisa, had capped his visiting Giovanni just this year with asking, regarding Savonarola: „Why don't you just kill him, Messer Medici?"

„Because I'm not in the business of creating martyrs," Lorenzo had replied, half amused, half appalled, for Cesare was the son of Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia, the Vice Chancellor of the Church, and, like Giovanni, already a bishop himself.

„But you…" young Cesare had begun, and fallen silent, for he was, after all, still a boy, and undoubtedly instructed by his father to not antagonize the ruler of Florence. Still, it was obvious what he'd meant to say. Lorenzo had, in fact, dealt out death this enemies once, who had included a priest of much higher rank than Savonarola.

In truth, Salviati had not been martyr material, and among all the regrets Lorenzo carried with him as he prepared to leave his life in his fortythird year, the death of the archbishop who'd prepared Giuliano's murder during high mass on Easter Sunday did not number very highly, if at all.

Savonarola, though, was another matter. He was infinitely more dangerous, and Lorenzo could only hope Piero would learn and listen even at this late hour.

Lorenzo raised his voice: „Frau Girolamo, is that you?" he asked, knowing very well it was, and Piero reluctantly surrendered his position at Lorenzo's bedside to the Domenican who came closer as Lorenzo beckoned. There was no further protest from Lorenzo's oldest son, though he still glowered.

They said that a godfather, even without any blood connection, made his godson his spiritual heir. Piero's godfather had never had the chance to teach Piero anything, and yet.

„I'm going to ask Francesco to become Piero's godfather," Lorenzo told his brother. Giuliano was rarely around these days, having fallen violently in love with Simonetta Vespucci, and this wasn't the kind of news to be sprung during a shared family meal, so Lorenzo had caught his brother in the early morning hours, having waited for him in his room.

„I see," Giuliano replied, no more than that, which was so unlike him that Lorenzo felt compelled to elaborate.

„He's sided with me against Jacopo for Gugliemo's sake, and then because it made business sense, but I can't always count on that, not with Jacopo's talent for manipulation. Francesco needs to feel we're his family, too, and not just because of his brother's marriage to Bianca. Making him my son's godfather will accomplish that. It's a sacred obligation. If he accepts it, he won't turn his back on us, I just know it."

„Lorenzo," Giuliano said tiredly, „you've wanted Francesco in this family since the git was eight. Now I don't know why, because he's bloody annoying and about as much fun as curdled milk, but there it is, so stop pretending this is all about strategy, Florence or the bank."

That was the thing about Giuliano. Even exhausted from a night of lovemaking, half drunk and half asleep, he could see through Lorenzo the way no one else could, with the possible exception of their mother.

„It's about both," Lorenzo admitted. He did think making a permanent ally out of Francesco de' Pazzi was the key to a peaceful, prosperous and feud-free Florence. But there was also a child in him which had never stopped mourning the loss of the boy Jacopo had taken away and transformed into someone parrotting his insults and petty grievances.

„So do it," Giuliano said. He hadn't let Lorenzo's unexpected presence in his chamber stop him from undressing while they were talking, and now he flung his doublet into a corner with unneeded force. „Since when do you ask my permission for anything, brother?"

By now, the weariness in his tone intermingled with some anger. This, Lorenzo had been prepared for. Not only because Giuliano should have been godfather to Lorenzo's first born son, that was the custom between brothers, but because Giuliano had never cared for Francesco even before Francesco had had thugs beat him up in the streets to avenge Jacopo's wound. Which was why Lorenzo was here, now. He rose from the chair he'd settled into while waiting for Giuliano and stepped towards him.

„I'd like your understanding," he said, putting a hand on Giuliano's shoulder. Giuliano tensed, and for a moment, Lorenzo thought he'd draw away, but instead, his brother returned the gesture, and drew him close enough for their foreheads to touch.

„You're unbelievable, you know that?" Giuliano murmured. „Spoiling even my chance to be properly mad at you. I understand, alright. But I'm still rooting for Piero to cry through the whole baptism, and if he poops on Francesco, I'll know God does hear my prayers."

Savonarola had a lean and hungry look; having watched him preaching from the pulpit at a distance, Lorenzo was not surprised to find that up close, it only intensified. His face beneath the hood could have been carved from wood, were it not for the burning eyes.

„You have sent for me, Lorenzo de' Medici," he said, and his trained preacher's voice was not lowered for the occasion but seemed to be pitched at the entire villa. But then, their audience was half the point of this meeting.

„So I did," Lorenzo replied, summoning his remaining strength to be understood just as clearly, „for I wish to die in peace with all humankind, Father, including my enemies."

By now, Savonarola's face was close enough that Lorenzo could see his dark eyes flare up in indignation. The Dominican was far too smart a man to miss the implication here. He'd predicted Lorenzo would die, and the current Pope soon thereafter, both sinners being called to face God's judgment, and Lorenzo's death would help verifying Savonarola's reputation as a prophet. But Lorenzo dying as a good Christian ought, with Savonarola himself as a witness along with Lorenzo's family and friends, would not fit the predicted pattern nearly as well. Not to mention that while hatred of a living tyrant might be a commendable emotion, hostility towards a dying man striving to make his peace with God would endanger Savonarola's budding reputation as a saint.

„I am not your enemy," the monk promptly declared. „That would be unchristian. I only despise your most unchristian deeds."

If time wasn't running out on Lorenzo, if this wasn't the most serious of occasions, he'd have been tempted to ask Savonarola to be more specific. Lorenzo had his own opinion as to which of his many sins was worst, but he doubted it would be shared by Girolamo Savonarola.

„Then lend me your assistance before God, Father," he rasped, and with a life time of discipline, did not hold his breath. This was the most critical moment. If Savonarola refused and denounced him again, it would divide Florence further, between the Domenican's followers and Medici supporters. If, on the other hand, Savonarola practiced the cardinal virtue of charity, then Piero stood a chance of leading a city where peace between both parties was possible, and without humiliation of either side.

Lorenzo wasn't afraid for the fate of his own soul. That had been decided a long time ago.

Excommunication had always been the most frightening weapon in the Church's arsenal, for it truly meant a fate worse than death. Anyone who died while excommunicated would be damned to hell for all eternity. As the Pope's ban following the failed Pazzi conspiracy did not simply fall on Lorenzo de' Medici, but on the entire city of Florence, it meant there would be no baptisms, either. Any child born while the city was under interdict would be excluded from the Christian faith was well. And there would be no more Christian burials. Giuliano, who'd been buried before the Pope's messengers arrived, was among the last to receive one.

Her faith was quintessential to Clarice. To know herself damned for remaining at her husband's side was truly the worst fate anyone could have chosen for her, who'd wished to be a nun before being persuaded to save the Medici via her dowry and family connections. And yet, Lorenzo saw no accusation in her gaze. There was, however, concern.

„You have not prayed since Giuliano died," she said. Lorenzo had gone through the motions during the burial, rising, kneeling, sitting, declaiming, but he didn't deny her claim. After their marriage had truly become a marriage, he'd promised her never to lie to her.

„There is no one to grant absolution to me now, Clarice," he replied instead, and she protested that there were priests in Florence who'd defy the Pope and grant him the sacrament of confession, even now. There were few things that showed how much the girl he'd encountered in Rome had changed, and he did not know whether he felt guilty or glad of it. It would have been unthinkable for her then to see a priest disobeying the Holy Father as anything but blasphemous.

„They might," Lorenzo said, „but they are not the ones I'd beg forgiveness from, if I could."

Nor was God, but he did not wish to burden his wife further by saying so out loud. He'd lived the first two decades of his life considering himself a good Christian, more or less. A sinner, true, as all men were, but he'd tried to fulfill God's commandments as best he could, and even the most terrible failure on his part to do so, the fate of Volterra, did not shake his basic conviction that God was kind, loving and just.

No, he did not consider himself to be damned because Pope Sixtus deemed Lorenzo thus. He'd lost his respect for the Pope when Salviati declared from the Palazzo Vecchio they'd all acted in accordance with the Holy Father's wishes. No, but Lorenzo did not see how a good, kind and just God could have permitted Giuliano to die in His House, in His Presence, butchered like an animal by Francesco de' Pazzi within the same hour that they'd embraced on the steps of the Duomo.

God did not permit it, a voice whispered in Lorenzo.You did. You did. You brought Francesco in your house, you treated him like a brother at the expense of your own, and let Giuliano die believing he was second best in your heart. And for this, you are most justly damned.

Clarice clasped his hands. „I know it is hard," she said earnest, „the hardest thing anyone can ever do. But Lorenzo – they are dead now. If you could forgive those men who sought to murder you and did murder your brother, then I think you would feel forgiven as well."

Only a few years and a life time ago, Lorenzo had stood in the Signoria and talked high-handedly about forgiveness, so sure he knew that the word meant, and that it was his to give. He could still see Jacopo's enraged and Francesco's confused faces, feel his own confidence with just the faintest trace of self congratulation that this was the right path to choose.

„And what if I don't deserve forgiveness, Clarice?"

Clarice had a kind, compassionate heart, which was readily apparent to all who knew her. She also, less obviously, had a soul made of pure diamond, and it was evident in moments such as this one, when it fleshed in her eyes as she declared: „Then you will seek it nonetheless, for I am pregnant again, Lorenzo, and I refuse to believe the father of my children will allow these children to be damned, do you hear me? A child learns the lessons its parents teach. If you believe yourself to be beyond God's forgiveness, how should our children be saved?"

The silence around Lorenzo and Savonarola grew even thicker, if that was possible. Out of the corner of his eyes, Lorenzo saw that his youngest daughter, Contessina, drew closer to her sister, both readying themselves to intercept Piero, should it prove necessary. The men of his family had always been blessed in their wives, mothers, daughters and sisters, he thought, and hoped it would be enough. Then Savonarola harumphed, and for the first time knelt to Lorenzo de' Medici, taking Lorenzo's hand into his as any priest ministering to the dying would.

„Hold steadfast to your faith," he admonished, and Lorenzo murmured: „I do."

„Become a better person."

Be good, Lorenzo's grandmother said in his memory, do good. She'd died asking this of him, Contessina de' Bardi, whom all of Florence honored as the embodiment of strength and wisdom, and yet she'd almost been in tears, and her urgent words had sounded desperate. What had she seen, his dying grandmother who'd faced down the entire Signoria of Florence without flinching in her day, that it had driven her to this? He hoped she hadn't been granted a glimpse of the future. Surely God could not have been so cruel.

„I shall try."

Savonarola peered down at him. This close, Lorenzo could smell sweat and dried blood on him. He wouldn't be surprised if Savonarola wore a hair shirt beneath his robes, which were made of simple wool. Savonarola, it appeared, was many things, but not a hypocrite. If he wished Florence to renounce all pleasures of the flesh and become God's city, he led the way by example.

But what about the lilies of the field, Fra Girolamo, Lorenzo thought, if there is to be only grain? I would not wish to live in a country that had no flowers.

The Domenican's hand was almost unbearably warm, or maybe Lorenzo's fingers were growing cold. It was, by all accounts, a warm spring night, but that signified little in his state. He had sharp bones, did Girolamo Savonarola, much like Francesco de' Pazzi had had, fingers kneading Lorenzo's shoulders as if they would never touch again when they embraced that Easter Sunday in front of the Duomo. Later, Lorenzo realised Francesco must have been trying to find out whether he was wearing armor beneath his shirt. That probably had been the reason why the assassins had gone for his throat.

Forgive, Clarice had urged, dead and in heaven for years now, if anyone was. She'd died shriven, the excommunication safely behind them, nearly four years ago. He'd been sick himself then, so sick he could not attend her funeral. But he could give her her wish now, in front of her children.

He pictured Francesco, as he'd last seen him, splatters of Giuliano's blood on him, defiant to the end. You are a Medici. I am a Pazzi. We could never have been truly friends.

I forgive you for the knife at my throat and my shattered heart, Francesco, Lorenzo thought. But how can I forgive you for Giuliano?

Lorenzo had never been truly alone as a child, and not just because as the heir of the Medici family, he'd had nurses and servants look after him from the moment he drew his first breath. There was also Carlo, the other child of the family, confusingly not Lorenzo's brother but his grandfather's other son. But Carlo had another mother in addition to Lorenzo's grandmother, and so he belonged to a great many adults. Though not to Florence; Carlo never was told that it was his destiny as a Medici to live for the city and guide it, the way Lorenzo was. Though both were kissed and praised by the adults with the same fervor, there was a difference between them, undefinable but there, which Lorenzo noticed, young as he was, not least because Carlo noticed. It made Carlo a shy child, desperately eager to please.

But then came Giuliano. Giuliano was never shy, not even when he slept. He was a noisy baby, gurgling with joy if he wasn't crying with rage, demanding that the world pay attention. He had two wetnurses, and both were exhausted, weary, in fact, to their bone the first time Lorenzo was let near the baby without either of his parents attending. Lorenzo wasn't yet four, and not tall for his age, but he prided himself on being very strong and sensible and not a toddler anymore at all.

The wetnurse currently in charge of Giuliano was trying to soothe him into sleep, and had been trying for a quite a while when Lorenzo made his way into the room. It was amazing, he thought, that so much noise could come from such a little body.

„Can I hold him?" he asked, wide-eyed. The wetnurse hesitated. If she hadn't been so exhausted, she'd probably have said no, or at the very least deferred the question to Lorenzo's mother or grandmother, neither of whom was present. As it was, she must have thought that this, at least, was something she hadn't tried yet, for she admonished Lorenzo to be careful, showed him how to hold and support the head of a baby and then, ever so carefully, handed over his little brother.

For such a little thing, the baby proved unexpectedly heavy. The change in circumstance, the difference in height of the person holding him, the new, much smaller face looking at him, the fact that Lorenzo smiled instead of being near tears himself, as the wetnurse was: any and all of these reasons combined to ensure the baby suddenly fell silent. His eyes stopped squinting and opened wide.

„Blue," said Lorenzo delightedly, „like mine!"

His mother claimed that all babies had blue eyes, but that couldn't be right, for Carlos had brown eyes, and Lorenzo would have remembered, surely, if they'd ever been blue.
Belatedly, it must have occured to the wetnurse that this was potentially a dangerous situation for the baby, and she asked Lorenzo to hand Giuliano back.

„Then he'll cry again," Lorenzo said matter-of-factly.

This in all likelihood was true, and the wetnurse wavered. An idea struck him.

„You could put me on your lap," Lorenzo suggested. „Then you'd be holding both of us."

Which she did by the time Lorenzo's mother entered the nursery. She took the sight in and looked frightened and proud at the same time.

„Be careful with your little brother, Lorenzo," she said softly, and Lorenzo interrupted his chattering at the baby. He'd discovered that if you gurgled at Giuliano, he gurgled back, and they were trading noises like you'd never get any adult to make, so his mother's appearance was most inconvenient. Still, he replied, barely looking at her:

„Of course I am."

It wasn't that he had been alone without Giuliano. But with Giuliano, he was happy.

By now, the anger and concern on his family's faces as they were watching Savonarola had vanished, and was replaced by weary hope, and Giulio's case with something that resembled awe. Giulio was Giuliano's son, born a month after his death to one of the girls Giuliano had sought oblivion with after losing Simonetta, and Lorenzo had adopted him, raising him together with his own children. Giulio didn't share a great resemblance with Giuliano; he was an awkward youngster now, gangly and prone to let the younger Giovanni make the decisions for both of them. But every now and then, when he moved his head a certain way, or when he laughed, there was an echo of Giuliano that cut Lorenzo to the core.

„Face your death with courage," Savonarola said, and his tone was no longer lecturing but calm and without any rancor. For a man who just a month ago had sounded downright gleeful when predicting Lorenzo would end up in the seventh circle of hell together with the other murderers, despots, blasphemers and ursurers, this was nothing short of amazing. You humble me, Friar, Lorenzo thought. And here I assumed you'd be all fire and brimstone.

By now, death was an old acquaintance. Lorenzo considered remarking they'd gotten used to each other, Death and he, but that would shock the children and push away the monk, both counteracting the purpose of his final hours.

It was true, though. He did not claim fearlessness. As a young man, fighting off an attempt at his father's life, he'd been too carried away by the moment to be properly afraid. A few years later, delivering himself to Ferrante of Naples as a prisoner, gambling all on his powers of persuasion in order to free his city from the Pope's ban and the war that had ensued, he'd had three months to contemplate Ferrante's erratic temper and penchant for dining with the mumified remains of his enemies. Lorenzo had been afraid then, oh yes, but he simply couldn't afford to show it, and so he'd dined with horrors every day while not losing his winning smile even once.

In between, though, he'd encountered Death at the Duomo. And he'd been a coward then, there was no other word for it. „You could not have taken on all of them," Clarice said later, but Giuliano did, and died, and Lorenzo, who was the elder and should have protected him, had promised to protect him, always, had scrambled for his life and ended up in the sacristy while his brother bled out of nineteen wounds. „You left him there," his mother had screamed, „you left him," while Francesco had yelled through the door that Lorenzo should come out and face him.

Face your death with courage.. But Lorenzo hadn't done so. Other people's death, to be sure. But his own, he'd run from, had bargained with and charmed and tricked, like a gambler playing with false dice. His death had waited for him in the cathedral, and it should have been Lorenzo who'd died then, with Giuliano escaping, finally stepping out of his brother's shadow and into a new life.

Well, there would be no more running now. The hour had finally come.

„I am ready," Lorenzo said, „if it is God's will that I should die."

The first time he thought he'd lost Giuliano to death had been at Volterra. But while the blood shed on that day would always be on Lorenzo's hands, would allow Savonarola to refer to him as Herod decades later, it wasn't Giuliano's. Death was all around them when they found each other at Volterra, but Giuliano, shocked into silence, was alive, blessedly alive.

The second time was after Simonetta Vespucci had died, and Giuliano did his level best to follow her for a while.

„Stop it," Lorenzo had said, finding his brother drunk and not even bothering to fend of robbers in an alley not far from his favorite tavern, which was how Lorenzo, who'd been looking for him all evening, had found him. „Just stop it."

„Don't you dare. Don't you dare tell me to get over her. What do you know of love, Lorenzo? You get it so damm easily. From everyone. And you never lose it. When you love a married woman, the worst that happens is that she's furious at you for breaking it off, and you can write a few more verses. When you marry to save the bank, it's a beauty who ends up falling in love with you as well. When you throw over your own father, the old man forgives you just in time so you don't have to feel guilty after his death. So tell me, Lorenzo, what do you know about love and loss?"

Lorenzo was slow to anger, but by now, he was seething. The fact that Giuliano, with the pickpocket bent over him, had looked dead for a moment didn't help.

„I know you're trying to make me find out what it feels like to lose my brother," he returned between clenched teeth. „I know that I won't, because I need you to live, do you hear me, Giuliano, I need you to live, and you will, because anything else is unthinkable!"

They'd fallen into silence then, Lorenzo crouching next to Giuliano, his torchbearer a respectful three paces behind them. Giuliano had glared at him, but hadn't turned away. At first, you could hear Giuliano's uneven breaths, but eventually, he started to exhale when Lorenzo did, and the night around them grew quieter still.

„You're the philosopher, Lorenzo," Giuliano said eventually. „You should know that anything can be thought of. But there's no point in saying I told you so as a ghost, is there, so I guess I'll have to stick around for a while."

Someone, probably Angelo Poliziano, murmured something about the unfairness of it all, that Lorenzo should not have to die at only fortythree years of age. Savonarola's back got even straighter, but apart from this there was no sign he'd heard Poliziano, whom he's publically referred to as a decadent heathen and a sodomite who epitomized all that was wrong about the society the Medici encouraged and fostered.

„Then your sins shall be forgiven," Savonarola told Lorenzo, and there was not an ounce of doubt in his words. The contrary part that lived in Lorenzo even now wondered whether Savonarola's idea of Lorenzo's sins wasn't too far removed from Lorenzo's own for that forgiveness to apply. But in truth, there were significant overlaps. Savonarola knew about Volterra, after all, along with the rest of the world, knew of the revenge Lorenzo had taken for his dead brother, knew that Lorenzo, who'd started out dreaming of a true republic, had ended up solidifying Medici rule in Florence more strongly than his father and grandfather put together.

You've lost your soul, Jacopo de' Pazzi had said with deep satisfaction in their last encounter. My soul was never mine to lose, Lorenzo thought. I lost my brother.

He did not lose his children, and he never stopped being grateful for their presence in his life. It was for them, for them and Florence, that he now asked: „Then give me your blessing, Father."

They were Clarice's children, too, sharing her faith. Now, they would not have to hear Savonarola preach from the pulpit that Lorenzo was surely in hell, for such a claim would gainsay the Dominican's own words. Now, Piero had a chance to start his rule in peace.

Savonarola rose, and made the sign of the cross over Lorenzo's bed.

„See, I told you he is a truly godly man," Pico della Mirandolla said to Poliziano somewhere to Lorenzo's right, while Savonarola ignored him as well and sternly took his leave.
„God be with you, Lorenzo de' Medici."

His dark robes swished most incongrously on the floor as he departed, with Lorenzo's family quickly closing ranks again behind him.

„Come here, Piero," Lorenzo whispered, and his oldest son immediately hastened to his side. His face was free of ire now, with only grief and love left. Poor Piero. The burden was now his, and thus anger would return soon enough. But there was one more thing Lorenzo could do.

„A godson," he rasped, his throat feeling constricted now and every word harder, „a godson is his godfather's spiritual heir. Pray for your godfather, Piero. That is my last request."

It was as close to providing forgiveness for Giuliano's death as he could get. His eyesight was failing him now, for he couldn't make out Piero's features clearly any more. Piero had inherited Clarice's light brown hair, and yet, it almost seemed blond in the light of all the candles burning in this room.

„Poor little bugger," a voice he hadn't heard in twenty years said in Lorenzo's ear. „First you burden him with a Pazzi as his godfather, and now you're making him pray for the git as well. You can be a real bastard, Lorenzo, has anyone told you that lately?"

The iron ring around his heart finally loosened, and he felt light, so light. There was no more gout making each step a torment; in fact, he felt hat he could rise, and leave this bed behind. This room. This body.

„Not in years, Giuliano," he replied. „Not in so many years."

Happiness engulfed him, and with his next breath, he was gone.