Two days later we stopped to rest at a little town in the middle of nowhere. Waiting for Ezio to catch up to us. We kept low and didn't do anything to draw attention to ourselves. There was an old abandoned house that we were given to use for a few days. It was old, it leaked and it was rotting. Several animals would sneak in during the night and scare Giovanni and Federico awake. Neither of them could really sleep, none of us could. Federico hadn't said a word to me since the ride here, and his sister and brother didn't want to talk.
I curled up in my little section of the house and just watched the rain drip down onto the floor boards. Watching the family from the edges of my eyes. Maria had Claudia and Petruccio curled up next to her under a tattered blanket keeping warm. Giovanni sat beside them with his an arm wrapped around the three of them, Petruccio in his lap. He talked to them about a trip they had taken years ago, and that it would be alright. It was only just for a little while, they could go home when things were cleared up.
"Ezio is here." Federico said pushing the cloth away from the door. Giovanni picked up his son and handed him off to Maria. She looked to the door watching for her family to come back.
I could hear them talking and see them through the giant hole in the old cloth. "We will stay here for a little longer. It isn't safe to go on in the dark." Giovanni said looking from each son to the other. "It won't be much longer and we will reach Monteriggioni. Mario will give us shelter there."
"Are you sure he will. I thought the two of you weren't seeing eye to eye..." Federico crossed his arms looking irate.
"He is my brother, he is family." He jumped to his brothers defense. "You would do well to remember who is, and who isn't." Giovanni gave his second son a nudge to come inside. He quickly came in to find his mother, and siblings huddled together on the floor. His mother gave a cry of happiness seeing her other son and the four of them held onto one another tightly. "Alexis is lying there alone, and you act like this to her!" Giovanni ground out pointing an accusing finger at him.
"She was reckless!"
"She is scared!"
"She could have been killed!" They lowered their voices.
"That girl needs you!" That hit home with Federico as he flinched. "Have you forgotten everything I have taught you son! She is watching you now, waiting for your answer, and you can say nothing?" He looked away from his father. "I know what she did was stupid and dangerous." Ouch thanks Giovanni... The older man placed his hands on his sons shoulders giving him a shake. "Then it is up to you to be there. To protect her, to protect your family." With that he released his son and walked back into the house. He stopped for a second to throw me a glance. He sat back down next to his wife putting his arm around her and sitting it on top of his daughters head. She was sleeping on her mothers shoulders, Petruccio against her chest.
Ezio sat beside his sister keeping a protective hand on her shoulder and his eyes on his father. All the innocence in his eyes, gone. What ever had happened in the two days we were separated to make him look so much older. Maria smiled at him whispering under her breath and she placed a free hand on his cheek. He didn't smile, he barely looked up at her then away as if he was ashamed of himself.
Lulled into a light sleep by the water I didn't notice the sun dip down, and cast the world in darkness. The stars and moon weren't even out, hidden by more rain clouds. Everyone was asleep now, except Federico he wasn't in the house at all. My dress rustled loudly as I stood up, cramped from sleeping on the uneven floor. Tiptoeing across the room I passed the huttled family. They didn't wake up this time.
I stood just outside the door, scanning the ground for Federico, he wasn't in site. "Here..." His voice whispered from somewhere high. My eyes scanned at ground level again before I looked up to find him sitting in a tree. "Go back inside it's going to rain." He whispered looking down at me.
"What about you?"
"I'll be fine." He leaned back against the tree keeping his eyes on the road.
"Go I'll keep watch." Ezio said standing behind me causing me to jump. Where had he come from?
Federico jumped down from the tree hardly making a sound. The two swapped places with few words. "The first is always the hardest brother." He clasp him on the shoulder and placed his hand against my back, turning me in the direction of the house. He took the seat his brother left beside Claudia, and sat there dragging me down with him. I leaned my head on his shoulder placing my hands around him hesitantly. "Our family is together... That's all that matters..." He whispered against my hair as he leaned down close.
He shook me awake just a few short hours later. Then he helped his father to awaken the rest of the family. I hoped it had all been a bad dream, but when the site of the run down house greeted me. I knew it was all to real.
"We have a long way to travel yet." Giovanni whispered to us who were barely awake. Most of us continued to doze on horse back. Once it got to uncomfortable all that there was to do was watch the scenery pass by slowly. After watching that for several hours in silence it was enough to make any sane person crack.
"What is that?" I whispered tracing the arrow like symbol on Federico's bracer.
"Nothing of importance." He said after turning his arm over to keep it from view. The same symbol though was on his belt as well. For something that held no importance it sure appeared a lot on his gear, and on his fathers. I could just make out the glimmer of the one on Giovanni's belt. And another on Ezio's bracer.
I didn't press the issue though and continued to observe the one on his belt in silence, and compare how similar his and his fathers gear looked. It looked almost exactly the same, down to the last detail. Only the bracer on Giovanni was missing, it has to be the one Ezio has on now...
"We will be there soon." Giovanni said turning slightly on his horse to pass a glace over his children and wife.
"Good morning, Auditore's!" The horses were pulled to a stop, the one Ezio had been riding rearing up on its hind legs. Ahead of us Vieri sauntered out from behind a bolder.
"Vieri!" Ezio sneered as he jumped off his horse. The other men quick to follow behind and lead the horses to the side. Hoping to avoid a fight. "What do you want!" He yelled keeping himself between the rest of us.
He grinned and began counting off on his hands. "Oh so many things... A larger palazzo, two new steeds, a prettier bride... oh yes your lives!" He waved his arm and several groups of men jumped out from the trees and rocks. The horses were released as the Father and sons drew what ever weapons they had. Maria struggled to keep her horse away from the soldiers; to keep herself and her youngest safe. Claudia stayed near her and tried to maneuver around the men.
My horse decided to buck as a sword was slashed at its throat. I slid off the back falling on my rear. I rolled away from the horse as it backed up a bit before bucking madly and running around in a frenzy. "Alexis!" Claudia called steering her horse over. Her horse was startled by mine making it freak out, she slid off the side landing on her feet.
"Stay away from them!" Ezio barked stabbing a man in the shoulder with a dagger.
Vieri gave a loud yell from his safe spot away from the combat. "I grow tired of this, Kill them all! Do not spare the women!" More men poured out from nowhere, charging down the hill. Giovanni, Ezio and Federico could only handle so much before they were tired out. Then it happened, the men all began to fall and roll down the hill, dead. Claudia and I clung closer to each other watching as the soldiers all fell. Vieri ran away leaving his men to die.
The two of us looked at one another trying to figure out just what had happened. Giovanni suddenly broke out into laughter. "Looks like I came just in time!" Another group of soldiers began running down the hill, mostly composed of archers.
"Who is this!" Ezio crouched down holding his dagger close and keeping his free hand out to block anyone from getting to the two of us.
The older man blinked before he gave a hearty laugh. "It's a-me Mario!" I couldn't help it I had to giggle-snort. Claudia looked at me like I was nuts for laughing in such a situation. Ezio stood up, his head craned to the side in confusion.
"Huh?" Mario rushed down the hill to give Ezio a giant bear hug, lifting him clean off the ground.
"You have forgotten me, nephew?" He sat an extremely confused looking Ezio back to the ground, looking around as everyone calmed down. His smile vanished for a second before it came back as he looked at Giovanni. "Brother, I am glad to see you all well."
"Thank you Mario. We owe you our lives." Giovanni stood beside Ezio. Mario quickly placed a heavy hand onto his shoulder, Giovanni doing the same.
"Uncle Mario." Federico was soon grabbed into a hug similar to one that Ezio had been taken into.
"Federico, you look … just like your father..." He looked over the gear that was strapped tightly to Federico. The three of them looked to each other continuing to talk in silence. "Come, let us go now. We can talk at the Villa." He turned around to watch the two lose horses run around chasing his men. "On second thought... we might want to restrain the horses first..."
Mario gave us a tour of Monteriggioni once we arrived. And by tour I mean he lead us up to his home, and told us to go explore. While Ezio was sent to pick up some weapons, but not before his father was chewed out for not telling him something or another, he wouldn't say what. Giovanni looked around acting like he hadn't heard his brother.
We had a few hours before we could go into our rooms so we wandered around the city. Claudia and I didn't want to sit still right now though. Thinking that a walk in a new city would do us some good to calm our nerves. Taking our minds off what had happened over the last few days.
"It isn't home..." She whispered staring over the open country side.
"It could be worse..." I said leaning over on the wall. She looked at me as if to ask 'and how so?' "Do I really need to say?"
"No..." She huffed and pushed herself away from the wall. "This is all just to much to take in."
"Yeah. I hear you there..."
"Let's go see if they're done with our room." Nodding I followed after her inside the villa. It was in such a horrible state of disrepair, it may have once been magnificent, but now it was run down and as depressing as our moods. We were sharing a room for now until another one could be cleaned up enough for us to have separate ones. The brothers all sharing another as well. We looked at each other and at the sparse room. The cracked roof had looked recently patched and the floors swept... at some point last year... Claudia gave a groan beside me and buried her head in her hands.
We had gotten so used to the luxury of the palazzo that this... was down right hell. "It can't get any worse..." Just as she muttered that into her hands a giant rat ran under our feet and across the room. We screamed and ran out of the room slamming the door shut behind us as we ran for the boys room. The three of them sat there looking confused. We flailed and pointed off back to our room where the rat was still trapped.
Ezio blinked slowly like he couldn't believe what he was hearing, if he even understood it at all. Petruccio sat up and looked intrigued.
"Can I see it?" He asked sitting his box on the bed.
"No!" Claudia and I screamed back throwing weary glances back at the room. He sank back down on the bed frowning and murmuring to himself. If left to his own devices he would come up with some random idea of how to catch it.
"Get it out of there!" I squeaked to either of the guys who would listen.
"It isn't hurting anyone." Federico hid his grin as he began putting away knives. Ezio sat nodding his head in agreement.
"Not yet it hasn't!" Claudia ran over and began pulling on Ezio's arm. He sat there looking slightly amused, but not quite smiling. "Ezio Auditore if I wake up with that rat on me, I will personally come after you!"
"Fine!" He stood throwing his arms up in defeat. "Big brother will get rid of it." Ezio grabbed up one of the knives.
"What are you going to do with that?" I asked and Claudia looked like she was thinking the same.
"Getting rid of the rat. What else?" He shrugged and walked out of the room.
"Well don't kill it!" We called chasing him down the hall.
"Get rid of it or no? Which is it?" He asked turning around, Federico coming to lean on the door frame to watch us wrestle the small knife from Ezio, by wrestling I mean he held it just over our heads out of reach making us jump for it. "I can just as easily leave it there if you want." He teased as he lowered and raised the knife.
"Catch it! You're going to make more of a mess of our room." Claudia finally managed to grab the knife away from Ezio and hid it behind her back.
"It's just going to get back in..." Federico stated from his spot. He had a point, Claudia and I had a little huddle to quickly decide what to do. Before anything could be decided the knife was taken back and Ezio was already in the room. Silence... silence... and more silence.
We started to open the door and see what was going on, but loud banging and cursing caused us to jump away and look at one another. It continued for several minutes before becoming quiet. Then it'd start up again, Ezio spouting off curses that sounded made up on the spot. Then it was silent again for a bit, and the door opened revealing a ragged looking Ezio. We opened our mouths to ask what happened. He shut the door quietly behind himself.
"Don't say a word!" Ezio limped off back to his room, slamming the door while knocking Federico out into the hall. We looked at Federico and back to ourselves again.
"I'm not going in there."
"Me neither!" We walked away to go find Maria and see if she could help us.