Chapter 1: Covered In Dirt


A tiny light passed through the curtain, which caused the man on the bed to crack an eye open.

When it felt as if sleep no longer wanted him, Ezio gently removed the hand that was on his chest and sat up. The naked brunette let out a soft sound beside him, as she shifted to her side and continued to sleep. The Auditore smirked. The memories from last night played in his mind, how she willingly made her way to the bed with him.

Thus, the start of another peaceful day in Monteriggioni.

That thought was destroyed by a high piercing scream, followed by others. The sound of running footsteps was just outside, which awoke the woman on the bed.

Quickly grabbing the shirt that he threw from last night, he put it on before pushing the curtains to the sides completely. Leaning outside from his room on the second floor, he looked where the people were running to and widened his eyes. Just ten houses away from the brothel, was a house in flames.

"Ezio, what's going on?"

"There's a house on fire down the street," At his words, the brunette widened her eyes. "I'm going to see how serious it is." He smirked at her, she responded with a smile.

"Good luck then."

The assassin made his way downstairs, not bothering to pay as he already paid their 'services' last night. Now standing outside, the smoke on the air was more recognizable.

A man who worked for his uncle ran up to him. "Ezio, what's going on?"

"A house is on fire."

"We can help those who are caught in it."

"Do it, then grab every bucket of water you can to put out the fire."

After the man's nod, Ezio easily pushed his way through the panicking crowd. As he got nearer, the cries of horror grew. A moment later, he made it to the front and widened his eyes again at the scene before him. The flames already ate up most of the building despite how much water was thrown on it, and the fire was already starting to spread across the buildings next to it. His eyes glanced to the side, where he saw some of his uncle's men surrounding a coughing family, who were the owners of the burning house.

Ezio called out to the mercenaries. "All of you, I need you to put out the fire with water from the wells around town, before the fire spreads to more houses."

They did as they were told. A second later, the assassin acquired a bucket of water in his hand. Everyone that was present decided to help out, as more men came. Slowly but surely, the fire began to die down, until they successfully killed every last flame. Roars of cheers and released breaths of relief soared through the air.

"Thank you, we wouldn't have managed to put out the fire without all of your help." A man spoke up to Ezio, hugging the crying form of his wife. Beside him, two children continued to cry with their mother.

"Will you be alright?" Ezio asked.

The man nodded. "It might take a while, but we can rebuild our house. In the meantime, I have a friend who owns an inn in town, me and my family will stay there." Ezio nodded, as he and the man continued to talk.

Everything calmed down. The house in ash still had a hint of smoke emitting from it, unlike the buildings that were near as they ended up nothing too serious. A good fix from a carpenter and it would be repaired.

The man in front of the assassin was clearly exhausted, with his bloodshot eyes and injuries from the fire. He thanked him again, and told him if he ever needed his help, he knew where to find him.

After that, he left with his family.

"Ezio!"

The assassin mentally groaned. 'This is just not my day isn't it?' He thought and turned to face the man who approached him earlier at the brothel.

"What?"

"We have a problem, outside the gates of Monteriggioni."

Ezio turned serious. "How many templars are there?" It had been weeks since their enemies made an appearance, it was no surprise they would try another attack.

The mercenary became uneasy. "It's not the templars, and we're not under any danger."

Ezio narrowed his eyes. "What do you mean?"

The man became more uneasy. "It is best if you see it yourself."

Confused by this turn of events, as well as curious as to why the man seemed troubled, Ezio made his way outside.

What greeted him was even more confusion. There was nothing out there except for another mercenary, standing beside a young child. As he walked closer, the boy's features became more detailed and Ezio almost stopped in his tracks.

The boy was watching him with a confused look on his face, and with every step the assassin took he saw the child's eyes grew wider, similar to his own no doubt. It would had been funny, if only he did not look as if he was a small Ezio.

"We found him earlier, alone." Said the mercenary walking beside him. Now he knew why the man was nervous.

The assassin stopped walking when he was five feet away, and stared at the child before him. This ought to to be a trap, there was no way the boy could be his, even when their appearance was the same. There was just no proof. However, no matter how much he denied it, the evidence placed in front of him was clear. There was no other reason why he was sent to Monterrigioni.

'What else than to pass the responsibility to his father?'

Being an assassin taught him how to calm his nerves during intense situations, as even the slight feeling of hesitation could lead to worse scenarios. Now that he calmed a bit, he took on the boy's appearance. He was covered in mud, as if the boy had been crawling in dirt under the rain, although some of it had been washed off because of the water. His arms were filled with bruises and all of the child's fingers were covered with bandages. But what caught his full attention was the fresh blood on the boy's lips.

"You found him before or after the fire incident?"

"After."

"Did you saw the person with him when he arrived here?"

"No."

During their talk, the child's head had been bent down as Ezio couldn't see his face. The boy's fingers were griping the bottom of his shirt as if he wanted to tear it apart, as his shoulders started to shake and sniffed his nose loudly. He was crying.

How the boy looked right now reminded him of Petruccio when he was upset, and with the death of his little brother it made the feeling a lot worse. Without thinking, the assassin took several steps forward and stopped when he was in arm's length, crouched down to the boy's height, and engulfed him into a hug. When the boy continued to cry, Ezio rubbed his back.

"It's okay, bambino, you are safe."

After several moments, he stopped crying. Ezio slowly pushed the boy until he could clearly see his face.

"What is your name?" At Ezio's question, the boy just stared at him. To prevent getting him upset again, he avoided asking questions regarding the boy's current situation and where he came from.

Although after he is healed of his injuries, Ezio would ask.

"Did you arrive here by yourself or was there someone with you?"

The boy looked troubled, and looked at the man standing beside him, confusion clearly evident on his face, before setting his gaze to his shoes instead. It was as if he could not understand what Ezio was saying.

"Do you understand a word I'm saying?"

When the boy kept his eyes low, Ezio's guess was right.

"It is rare to be born with a birth defect, and this child is one of them. The boy is born deaf." The assassin stated.

"What will you do with him?"

Ezio stood up, and placed a hand on the boy's shoulder. "First, I will take him to a doctor to treat his wounds."

The mercenary nodded. The assassin gently led the boy inside the gates, as they made their way to the healer's building.

The child's age could be between eight and ten, which would mean he was born when Ezio was seventeen or younger, just before his father and brothers were executed. He did not know the child's mother, as he slept with many women during his teenage years. Right in front of him, was the boy wincing at whatever the doctor put on his injuries to avoid infection.

As the healer cleaned the blood from the boy's mouth, Ezio could see the deep vertical cut on the boy's lips.

"It would hurt a lot less if you stop moving, child." Scolded the doctor.

The assassin chuckled. "He could not understand you. He's born without hearing."

"I see, how unfortunate. Is this the reason of his injuries?"

Ezio frowned at this. "To be honest, I'm not so sure."

The boy winced again. The cut on his lips was deep, and would turn into a scar in the future, identical to Ezio's. The doctor knew it too, but kept it to himself, which the assassin was grateful. He did not know why after many years of hiding, the boy was sent to him now, especially in a wounded state. It made his blood boil.

The anger must have shown on his face because when the boy took a peek at him, he widened his eyes and then quickly averted his gaze to the floor. Ezio needed to clear his mind first, as he went outside without uttering a word.

The spicy scent from the different herbs and the shouts from the merchants indicated that Ezio was near the market, which was full of people. He stood still, as men and women greeted Ezio when they passed by him.

Everyone went on with their daily routines for the morning, as if the fire incident never happened.

Other than a few houses caught by the fire, no one got hurt and they were content with that.

The memory of finding the boy outside the gates slipped back into his mind, leaving him uneasy again. When the fire started, the mercenary left his post to help and the gates unguarded, but it was half an hour later when they finally extinguished the fire.

Those men who patrolled above the walls should have seen the boy coming at a faraway distance, however they only noticed him when he was standing alone at the front. It was confusing and suspicious. Uncovering this mystery would be a lot easier if the boy could speak and was not deaf. 'How should I explain the situation to uncle Mario?'

"Ser Ezio."

The master assassin turned around to face the doctor, and noticed new bandages were covered all around the boy's arms.

"Does he need regular checkups?" Ezio asked.

"There's no need, bruises will take time to heal. On the other hand, the cut had been deep and will turn into a scar on his lips once it's healed."

"I see. Here's your payment." Ezio paid him twelve florins, before looking at the boy. After thinking if he should offer his hand, he decided to do it. The child held his larger one without any hesitation, as they head their way to the villa.

When they arrived at the front of the huge house, some of Mario's men were training inside the ring. One of them asked Ezio for a demonstration to help them become stronger, but the assassin refused as it was important to see his uncle first.

The mercenaries stopped what they were doing and landed their gazes to the boy, who began to get nervous from their sudden interest. They started to ask him questions, however Ezio's knowledge regarding the child was limited and personal therefore he couldn't reply to all of them. He quickly left before the boy got even more overwhelmed. As they arrived inside the ball room, Mario was shocked as well as surprised.

"Ezio, is this.." The assassin's uncle took a glance at the boy then to Ezio, and back to the child. At the end he settled to face his nephew.

The child was staring at his uncle with horror, and his face was actually turning pale, as well was dangerously close to fainting. It would not be wise to leave him alone, but the boy certainly did not need to see his uncle right now.

"Uncle for some reason the boy is scared of you. It would be easier for him if we discuss this in the armory."

The man nodded, as they walked inside the room that was full of different weapons.

"What do you think of this?" Ezio asked awkwardly.

The man sighed. "Giovanni mentioned this day would come, he told me with how reckless you've been it was bound to happen. He was right."

"You're fine with it?"

"If this happened years ago, I wouldn't be. But what's done is done and we cannot alter the past, only to learn from it and move on."

Some of the tension in Ezio's shoulders quickly faded away. "He arrived alone outside the gates. The guards didn't notice his arrival or if someone was with him."

"That is strange, they should have noticed him coming at a distance." "But why is he with me now after so many years?" Ezio stated with anger.

"Did you try asking the boy?" His uncle asked.

"I didn't to avoid getting him more upset. But when I asked of his name and if there was someone with him, I found out that he was born deaf."

The older man raised his eyebrows at that. "It's more likely from his genes, his mother could be deaf too."

"I don't remember any woman who had a problem hearing, or remember them telling me it came from their family."

Mario's face turned grim. "With his injuries, he could had been abused and lost his hearing at a young age and forgot how to speak. His clothes look like they haven't been washed for days so he must have run away from home. When he saw you, the boy must have assumed you were his father and began looking for you. For whatever reason, someone must have helped him."

Ezio's frown deepened, no wonder the child looked frightened, he had been through much worse.

Mario placed his hand on his nephew's shoulder. "You need to tell the news to your sister and mother, I'm sure they will welcome the boy with open arms the same as I have." "You're right, although they may not like it." The assassin said with a grimace.

"It is best to be out with it sooner." After an encouraging squeeze to his shoulder they walked out of the armory.

When they stepped into the ball room, no one was there. They searched every corner but the boy was nowhere to be seen.

They did not know where he went. The assassin was quite worried if the child got lost. With how huge the villa was, it was more likely.

They went at the back and searched the gardens. Ezio used his gift to spot anything out of the ordinary, but there was none. They made their way to the front and asked the mercenaries who were training inside the ring, but they did not notice the boy leaving.

They returned inside. Mario looked worried as well. "If he is not here, then he must have gone upstairs."

When none of them moved, his uncle sent him an unimpressed expression.

Ezio stared back. "What?"

His mentor crossed his arms on his chest. "He is now your responsibility, nephew. Go look for him before your sister does, or worse, your mother."

If Ezio had been younger, he would be annoyed at his uncle right now. However, Mario was right and without a word went upstairs, and began his search in the art room.

Unfortunately, the boy was not there either. Ezio searched all the rooms on the second floor, including the empty ones, but there was still no sign of him. There were no more areas left to check except for his mother's bedroom, and walked back to stand in front of her door.

Pushing the fear away and replacing it with courage, he knocked and waited for a few seconds, before opening it. He only found his mother asleep on her bed. Closing the door silently, he made his way downstairs and into his uncle's office. Claudia was usually behind the desk, writing and managing the profits around Monteriggioni, but the room was empty.

Ezio was getting more worried then it struck him, he did not search his bedroom yet. Running back upstairs he dashed passed the servants, who was surprised to see him in such a hurry, and turned to a couple more hallways until he finally reached the entrance to his room. Climbing up the ladder and expecting the boy to be there, but was greeted with another empty room.

"Merda."

Ezio did not know where else to look, he searched everywhere inside the villa but there was still no sign of the boy. He was pathetic for a master assassin. He climbed back down.

The assassin's uncle was nowhere to be seen. Ezio made his way outside, but the mercenaries still did not know where the boy was. They told him Mario was searching for the child around town.

Although there was still one room he did not bother to check, due to the fact how impossible the boy could be there, but he was out of options at this point. With a sigh, he made his way to the bathing room.

Ezio would just take a look. He walked through the ball room, out to the garden, and made his way to the other side of the villa. Stepping inside, he widened his eyes and froze at the doorway.

The boy he had been looking for the last two hours was naked, and was inside a bath tub filled with light brown water and bubbles were surrounding the child. Claudia was washing his hair with shampoo.

His sister noticed him coming in, and gave the older Auditore one of her famous glares. "Ezio!"

The assassin frowned, relieved, confused, and a bit annoyed. "Claudia, wait, why is he here and taking a bath?"

"Because you, brother," Ezio's sister said with venom. "Left him alone and lost in the gardens. He was all covered in dirt and was so scared that he could not even speak. He has bruises on every part of his body, and I spent an hour gently telling him to take his clothes off so I could clean the mud off of him."

Ezio raised his eyebrows at his sister's outburst. "I admit it was my fault. I was speaking with uncle but he wasn't there where we left him, and we looked everywhere for him."

The assassin's sister sighed.