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 Chapter III

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Cecilia Gallerani
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PostSubject: Chapter III   Wed Mar 16, 2011 2:04 pm


Rome, Italy: 1494
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Cecilia Gallerani
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PostSubject: Indulgences   Wed Mar 16, 2011 2:05 pm

His Holiness stood with his arms outstretched, his elegant Catalan head bowed, a beatific smile gracing his tensile, handsome mouth. Behind him was a tapestry, hanging the length of the great wall. She regarded the subject, curiously; Lot, seduced by his daughters, amidst the burning ruins of Sodom. Their smocks were rent from their bodies: a wanton breast peeked out here, a scandalous thigh there. The old man, helpless in the face of such unbridled female lust, was unable to prevent himself.

Cecilia thought that the Pope was everybody’s favourite grandfather, and it could easily be true. He had kept the brothels of Rome in business; no pearly-smiled courtesan had refused his patronage. Only God knew how many bastards he had left trailing behind him, from the pleasure chambers of Roman palazzos all the way to the low foothills of Xàtiva, where he had been known simply as Roderic de Borja y Llançol, the ambitious son of two Borgias.

Tonight, he was dressed like a Turkish prince; his elegant frame had been freed of his pontifical vestments. The Pope took her hands, and gave a deep, smiling sigh, like a languid cat who had settled in a warm, sunlit spot. He regarded his granddaughter, and his granddaughter regarded him. Rodrigo Borgia was over sixty, but he was still handsome; handsome enough, even, for his grandchild to think that his pretty little mistress had gotten a good deal. She recalled that Donna Giulia was her own age, and wondered whether Rodrigo Borgia ever thought of his granddaughter when he doted on his mistress.

She could feel his perfumed breath floating over her veil as he examined her appearance. Her gown was of heavy black velvet; it had been one of three mourning gowns that had been hastily made for her in Milan in the days following her husband’s death. It was not readily evident that, at one time, she had been a desperately fashionable young woman, a creature of shocking extravagance. A sardonic smile tugged at her lips, as she waited, hands-clasped, for the inspection to end.

Her grandfather touched the side of her face lightly. “Is this mourning not excessive?”

“I am deeply aggrieved,” she replied quietly. It was no lie. She had loved the delicate young man who had been her husband, despite his bouts of illness, and the string of slim-hipped young servant women whose dowries she had been forced to pay before she sent them packing out of Milan.

Rodrigo Borgia granted her a tender smile. “I had not realised your marriage was such a success, Granddaughter.”

It was the only time within her memory that the Pope had called her his grandchild. Cecilia fell into his open embrace in a sudden outburst of violent sobbing – later, she remembered that he had kissed her warmly, told her how much she resembled her mother, and how much she had been missed by her family, and how much he had feared that she wouldn’t be safe under treacherous Milanese hands. How he had feared to send her so far himself, but there had been no choice – she was the eldest Borgia girl, and the only one who had been of age. At the end of this long speech of gracious reassurances, Cecilia’s tears were dry.

“The House of Sforza casts a long shadow,” she said bitterly.

The Pope was transformed; his grandiose elegance was spoiled by a petulant look that would have looked childish on a boy of three.

“On us all,” he muttered, glumly. “My Lucrezia must marry Giovanni Sforza.”

“That supercilious prig? Oh Your Holiness...”

“There is little hope of avoiding it. Cardinal Sforza has spent months negotiating this...and we must keep the Sforza alliance, or the Neapolitans will be unchallenged.”

“You’re no puppet like Cibo was,” she hissed. “Sforza has no right to think he can pull your strings!”

“Ascanio means well,” he smiled. “I think he believes he is one of us. A Borgia.”

“Respectfully, Your Holiness, he will only ever be a Sforza.”

Pope Alexander laughed. “I think you exaggerate the differences between our two families, my darling Cecilia. We are as thick-skinned as we are ruthless. We are grand and insidious in equal measures. And we love more than anything the satisfying chink of coins in a purse.” He smiled at his grandchild. “Which is why I have a gift for you.”

His man stepped forward, carrying a dark, carefully folded bundle, wrapped with scarlet ribbon. He bowed and set in her expectant hands. Her eyes widened with impatient pleasure at the unmistakeable touch of silk velvet, even before she had untied the ribbon.

It was a woman’s cloak of a deep crimson colour, nearly black: the colour of blood pooled under moonlight. The flickering light of the chandelier cast a faint, reddish sheen across its sinuous surface.

She gazed at it hungrily, imagining how the fine it would look under the bright tapers and flambeaux of the Apostolic Palace, around her pale shoulders.

“I see that you are pleased,” said the Pope.

She ran her fingers along the smooth silk, shuddering with delight. “It is beautiful.” She flicked the hem over with the practised deftness of a connoisseur, and caught her breath: it was lined with a heavy golden brocade, rich as butter. Her fingers sank into its soft pile, and she turned her gaze towards the Pope’s expectant smile.

“You indulge me.”

She looked at him, as always, slightly in awe of his majestic countenance. The creases on his face spoke of sixty years of a good life, but they lent him the distinguished air of marble sculptures of certain ancient Roman statesmen: the beetled brow, the resolute, yet sensual, mouth. And his eyes, quite black, were of very strong sight – he could pick a friend’s face from a great distance, and an enemy’s face at an even greater one. His brows were elegant and winged, as though they had aspirations, like Icarus, to loose the mortal bounds of the earth and fly into the freedom of the firmaments.

“You deserve to be indulged.” He placed a bejewelled hand on the gentle slope of her belly. “And when this little one is born, he, too, will be indulged.”

She knew how much he adored doting on his children – Rodrigo Borgia may have had a multiplicity of sins, but his love for his children was immense. His generous heart was filled with more love than that gracile frame of his could contain; and so, the Pope sought to exorcise a little of it every day, to the benefit of his acknowledged sons, his only living daughter, his spoiled and petted mistress. His prodigal granddaughter only provided an additional recipient into whom he could channel his excess of paternal energy. It offered a pleasing synergy for Cecilia, whose passion for worldly possessions was matched only by her longing to be loved. She had known too little love in Milan, and far too much neglect.

She smiled at him. “How do you fancy having a Sforza for a great-grandson, and a Sforza for a grandson?”

He laughed, placing a bejewelled hand on her cheek. “As long as that monstrous uncle of yours keeps well away from them, I will be happy.”

Cecilia smiled, but her heart was grave. Ludovico Sforza’s shadow fell long, especially towards the evening. On long, dark afternoons like this, it could even reach Rome.
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Giulia Farnese

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PostSubject: Elegant, Beauty   Wed Mar 16, 2011 2:07 pm

Giulia quietly made her way through the narrow corridors of the palace she shared with the Pope’s favorite daughter and his third cousin. She gently traced her finger on the richly woven tasperies that hung on the wall, lost in their story, she didn’t notice when Adriana came up beside her.

“Beautiful, are they not?” She asked. For she knew Giulia’s strong desire for rich, and beautiful things. They were the same as her own. Giulia smiled, and nodded, without taking her eyes off the tasperies. She loved looking into them. Each one told many stories. Stories about the people who made them, stories inside them, and the stories that the people who made them, wanted you to see.

“Yes, they are. But not as lovely as you dear Adriana.” Giulia said kindly.

“This, I am afraid is quite true.” Adriana said with a smirk. “We women, of beauty are naturally gifted. A taspery must be woven to be beautiful. “Come. Rodrigo is waiting for us down stairs.”

“Pope Alexander…” Giulia began, then, as if in mid sentence, she changed her mind from whatever it was she was going to say. And what she was going to say, she really had no idea. “These colorful tasperies really are something. Do you not agree Adriana?” She asked turning to face the woman. Adriana smiled and nodded.

“I do. Have you had word from your husband lately?” Adriana asked as the two of them began walking once again towards the dining hall.

“Yes, he sent me a little puppy and sends his love. I think he really does love me Adriana. Not like Rodrigo of course. No one can love more than the Pope.”

“This is true, my dear. I thought tomorrow we could go out into the plaza. Perhaps go shopping at the market.”

“Is that wise?” Giulia asked stopping. “I would much rather have Tessa do it for us.”

“My dear, we must get out of this castle sometime.”

“Couldn’t we go out into the countryside? Take Cecilia with us. I think it would be good for her to go out with us as well.”

“Yes, perhaps. We shall see how she is feeling.” Adriana responded as the two finally made their way into the dining room.

“Oh that smells wonderful. I am simply starving.” Giulia said taking her place at the table.

“No, dear, I doubt you are starving. Just hungry.” Adriana said picking up a wine glass and taking a sip out of it.

“It is the same thing, isn’t it?”
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Catarina de' Medici

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PostSubject: A Drunken Medici    Wed Mar 16, 2011 2:09 pm

“I thought you would be inside with the rest.” Perio said coming up softly beside Catarina as she sat on a bench outside in the garden watching the stars dance about.

“I couldn’t stand it in there any longer. With my, what- you- call, family. They are a wretched lot. And the Pope, wants me to stay here to spy on them. Hah. Spy on my own family I should be shocked and ashamed at such a request but I dare not refuse. Besides, perhaps will bring down the Medici.” Catarina said her voice in a harsh whisper full of hatred.

“Is that what you wish little Catarina?” Perio asked wrapping his warm, strong arms around her. She nodded, and dashed a angry tear out of the corner of her eyes.

“Yes it is. The whole lot of them. They arent my family. Only my father was.” She said with a dramatic sigh. “And he is no longer in this world thanks to a certain Monk.”

“So you do blame him then?” Catarina nodded.

“I do. My father was in perfect health before started in on him. What am I going to do now?” Catarina asked looking up at Perio.

“Do, as the Pope instructed and he will reward you in the end. He always does. Catarina, just be careful about it. You do not want the wrath of the Medici on you.” Catarina laughed harshly.
“Perio, I have had the wrath of the Medici on me since I was born. Just being my mother’s daughter, has brought me the wrath of the Medici.” She hiccupped a little bit and looked down at an empty goblet.

“Are you drunk?” Perio asked picking up the wine glass. Catarina nodded, looking innocently.

“Oh, very. And wouldn’t you love to be alone in a room right now?” Catarina asked, moving in closer to Perio.

Perio laughed, gently, and lifted his drunken little friend up into his arms. “I think, we don’t need a room, to be alone in.” He said smiling, and gently caressing her cheek.

“Ooh, outside?” Catarina asked, leaning up and kissing him.

“Not, while you are drunk.”

“Why not?”

“I will not, because it would mean nothing to you.” Catarina frowned and pushed herself out of her friend’s/ lovers arms

“You think you mean nothing to me?” She asked her eyes wide and with tears.

“That is not what I said.”

“No, it is not.”

“Catarina, when you are sober again, I will come see you. Can you make it to your rooms, without passing out?”

“If I pass out before then, it is not like anyone will notice. They’d leave me there to rot, or push me over a balcony.”

Perio frowned, and lifted her back up into his arms. “Then I shall tuck you in safely and watch over you in the shadows. Until you are sober. Unless, you would like me to dump you in the fountain.” Catarina giggled.
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Cecilia Gallerani
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PostSubject: A Family Affair   Wed Mar 16, 2011 2:12 pm

His Holiness, Alexander VI, strode into the intimate dining room, his unacknowledged granddaughter following silently behind him. Two curious female faces looked up; one of them, Cecilia knew from childhood – Adriana de Mila, the woman who had raised her. The other, she knew only by description, the face so famous that it had been on everyone’s tongue, even as far North as Pavia. Giulia Farnese, La Bella, the woman whose virtues had become public knowledge.

The Pope’s mistress had a very fair countenance to look upon, with wide-set blue eyes, a prettily-shaped face and a small, red mouth. Her fair, red-gold hair was caught up in a golden net, and Cecilia noticed the finery of her gown with a sharp pang of envy.

Cecilia was a creature without any presence at all – it was no surprise at all when His Holiness approached the seated beauty for a kiss that she did not notice the woman in the dark, plain gown standing in the hallway. It was Adriana de Mila, the chaperone of her clandestine childhood, who looked up from her scalloped veal and came eye-to-eye with the young woman who had been a troublemaking girl when she had left her tutelage.

“Donna Cecilia!” she said, her brows slightly raised as the younger woman tottered unsteadily. “What is this madness, go to bed at once!”

“I am well enough, Adriana.”

“You seem very weak, my girl. You should be resting. I will see to it that a portion of veal is brought to your chamber, so that you can dine without exerting yourself.”

“I am tired of being alone in my bedchamber all day.” She gazed warily at the young woman seated by the end of the table, holding the Pope’s beringed hand in her small, white one.

There was a moment’s enmity there, despite both their good intentions. At Giulia Farnese’s quivering smile, Cecilia felt a faint prickling of mistrust.

“My darling, I want you to meet my cousin, Cecilia. She will be living with us until I find her a suitable new husband.”

There was hardly any Duchess left in the plain creature who sat down opposite the glittering Giulia la Bella. She was small, dark and drawn, and seemed older than her nineteen years. Giulia noticed her brighten slightly at the mention of marriage.

“Your Holiness? You are negotiating marriage for me?”

The Pope smiled at her. “It is not too early, I hope?”

“Oh, not in the least!” she replied with enthusiasm. She noticed Giulia smiling, and her reserve softened. “I’m sorry, Donna Giulia...I have heard so much about you that I don’t really know what to say towards you.”

She gave a disarming little laugh. “Oh, it’s terrible, I feel quite the same way about you!”

His Holiness stroked Giulia’s fair head gently. “It is my sincerest wish that you two become the best of friends.”

“Indeed. It would not do well to have discord in the harem,” Cecilia added laughingly. “I promise you, Your Holiness. I won’t do anything seditious.”

Adriana watched quietly as the next course was served – a very excellent zucchini stuffed with pork mince – and the conversation grew ever lighter and less substantial, until, after many glasses of His Holiness’ best Sangiovese were emptied and many laughs exchanged, the guests retired on amicable terms, quite exhausted and sated.
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Afonso das Neves
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PostSubject: Lateness   Thu Mar 17, 2011 2:45 am

After the banquet and the dancing it was time for the bride and the groom to go to the villa which would become their new home. It had been Cardinal Costa’s wedding present, a sumptuous house in Rome with luxurious chambers filled the most expensive furniture and the most dedicated servants there could be.

The newlyweds went down the road in procession mounted in white horses, side by side, followed by the guests. It rained flower petals and everyone seemed to smile with joy. With the exception of Afonso. He kept thinking about that mysterious woman and how soon he would be late for his encounter with her at the Palazzo di Orsini.

Finally the procession arrived to their house and Afonso and his new wife, Clarice, were separated from each other. Afonso found himself surrounded by servants. His uncle was there as well, trying to guide the servants as if he was a maestro directing an orchestra.

“Go bring us some wine. No, not that shirt, the other! Hurry, they are waiting for us.”

Afonso accepted the cup of wine and looked through the window. It was getting dark outside and he knew it was getting late.

“I thank you, uncle for everything including this wonderful treats to my person, but I confess I can change clothes by myself. Besides I will need to leave soon and I wanted to tell my wife goodbye before my departure.”

“Aren’t you forgetting anything?” He looked to the Cardinal and then smiled.

“Of course. I also thank God for this glorious day and for everything he gave me. Also that he blesses my wedding with many healthy children. God bless the king D. João II rei de Portugal e dos Algarves. And I think that’s all…” he said, as if he was a young student who had just spoken his answer to his teacher’s question.

“Almost. You asked for children. How do you suppose you are going to have children if you don’t plan to bed your wife?”

“Of course I plan to do so uncle. But you told me she was still young and I have to wait.”

Cardinal Costal laughed.

“Oh Afonso, look around. It has been two years. She was a child then. A child who has become a woman. A true Medici. You shall bed her tonight and have your children, like you asked of God.”

Afonso could not really believe what was happening. He tried to recall the face of his new wife. It was all very blur since he hadn’t manage to look her in the face properly. But he just could see a young, naïve and innocent woman. Medici or not, she was still a child.

“Maybe later uncle. I think she needs time to…”

“Everyone is waiting in her chambers. The bed is being blessed and so his her hound. You made your vows in front of God, Afonso. You are Clarice’s husband and you need to perform your duties, so that she can perform hers. “

“Your Eminence? They are wondering what is causing the delay…” a servant told to the Cardinal. He sighed and looked disappointed to Afonso.

“There will be no time for you to undress now. Just go to her chambers.”

The sailor was literally pushed to the door. The room was dark and the windows were covered with dark curtains. All the eyes were set on Afonso, and he swore he could see the disapproval in his mother-in-law’s eyes. Some people started to mutter and a priest was mumbling some prayers. Afonso looked at his new wife. She was wearing a fine chemise, her arms crossed, probably with cold. This time it was him who looked down avoiding her look.

“Leave us,” he ordered in Italian. “All of you,” he added, referring to the priest and his mother-in-law who seemed reluctant in leaving the chambers. A lethal silence fell in the air and then the only sound he could hear was Clarice’s breathing.

“I apologize for the lateness, little wife. I promise next time I will be more punctual,” he assured her and started to take off his clothes, tossing them without ceremony to the ground.
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Clarice de' Medici

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PostSubject: An Uninspired Wedding Night   Thu Mar 17, 2011 2:47 am

They were husband and wife, in bed at last, awaiting the inevitability of their wedding night; but this was no scene to inspire conjugal passion. The new couple lay like perfect statues, like the marble effigies of a knight and his lady, side by side, in eternal repose. Clarice had her hands folded across her breast, the covers tucked up beneath them, a picture of modesty. Her hair was fanned out across the pillow in symmetrical curls of red-gold.

She knew, by all her instinct, and all that had been drilled into her by her mother, that something should have happened by now.

It was all moving too slowly. He was staring at the canopy of her new bed with a strange intentness.

“Do the bed-hangings displease you, my lord?” she asked, trying to mask her impatience.

He seemed a little startled by her question. “Not at all, little wife. I think they’re very...pleasing.” Frowning, he raised himself on his elbows, and looked at her.

And yet he did not look at her, not directly. His gaze seemed to hover above her body under the bedclothes, and he seemed to hesitate. He reached a hand towards the edge of the quilt where it quivered at the pulse of her throat, and prised it away tentatively.

“Are you tired?” he asked.

Clarice was given the distinct feeling that he was fishing for an answer in the affirmative. She made a frustrated little moue. “Not in the least.”

He uncovered her warm, tense body, leaning over her. She could see distraction in his eyes, mixed with apprehension and annoyance. He had insulted her at their wedding feast by dancing with another woman; he had embarrassed her by arriving late at her bedchamber, scorning all ceremony and propriety, and undressing plainly in front of her. Now, he could not even grant her the simple mercy of feigning the slightest bit of interest in her.

His hand moved to the hem of her nightdress, gathering it just slightly. She looked away, and suppressed a flinch as he put his hand beneath her gown, caressing her leg. She was uncertain whether this gesture was supposed to be for her benefit, or his.

He sighed and took his hand away. “You’re just a child...”

She looked at him sharply, an indignant glare on her face. “I am not! I know what I’m supposed to do.”

“Do you? Enlighten me.”

His gaze was quite sudden and intense, and she could not keep it for long. She looked away. “We should put out the candles.”

“No. Not yet,” he said, his voice momentous. She raised her eyes at the hint of gravity in his voice, and they shared one gaze in the dimness of the candlelight. If there was the palest spectre of her fear reflected in his eyes, she did not see it. But she did see something else in those warm, hazel depths. It was as though she had the faintest glimpse of happiness; her awareness of his utter foreignness faded away, as a closed window shuts out a raging storm.

She felt, for an instant, ready to give herself over fully, to entrust herself to that disarming, expectant smile of his. He leaned over her, and for a moment she felt the potent force of attraction assault her virgin senses; the scent of his skin under his shirt, his warm breath filling the space between them. She could feel the thud of her own pulse, a distracting, hypnotic rhythm. Briefly, she wondered if he, only inches away, could feel it too. Suddenly, she was discomfited by the thought of him discovering her newborn desire, and, with a hint of indignity, she pulled her gaze away.

It was all the impetus his uncertainty required to take hold. His lips brushed her cheek in a cool kiss. “Good night, little wife.”

He rose; blew out the candles; and dressed himself in his discarded clothes in near darkness. Ashamed, Clarice did not raise a quivering voice after him, nor to ask thinly where he was headed. She watched wordlessly as he picked up his doublet and walked out of her bedchamber. The door thudded shut with finality; and that was the end of her wedding night.
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Cesare Borgia

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PostSubject: Mirrored Threat   Sat Mar 19, 2011 3:11 am

A thick, lazy afternoon in the Palazzo di Santa Maria. November was the only unpredictable month within the generally unswerving Roman calendar. Capricious November; it was known for its whims, as it teetered along the sharp precipice between the dry summer and the dull winter. Today, the fickle season had in its caprice chanced upon rain. The din of the invariable drizzle had lowered all activity within Donna Lucrezia Borgia’s apartments to the dull drowse that usually followed excessive feasting, and much sipping of the warm, mulled wine that was served by the liveried page boys. Lucrezia had set a splendid scene for this private banquet – rich silk brocades had been draped from bare corners and eaves on her whim, an assortment of coloured pillows tossed around the silk carpets underfoot. It was like a scene from a far-off, depraved Oriental court.

Her guests lay stretched cushions of velvet, their postures languid. The guests of this early-evening idyll were a select bunch – Lucrezia herself, her cousin, Cecilia Gallerani, her brothers, Cardinal Cesare Borgia, and little Jofré. Juan Borgia, Duke of Gandia, was dressed in his customary Turkish robe, legs crossed like a barbaric Sultan, idly strumming a lute. Cesare had his sister’s golden head in his lap. Cecilia was leaned against a brocaded divan, cradling Jofré between her knees, as she used to when he was a child.

Cesare watched her as she breathed slowly, her eyes half-lidded. The air was soaked in a heavy, sensual languor. It smelled of a licentious, eastern perfume.

“Why can’t you play an actual song,” complained Cesare abruptly of his brother’s unmelodic strumming.

Juan shot his brother a stare, and then smiled, and his plucking grew even more tuneless. Cesare resisted the sudden wrath of tide welling inside him. Only Juan had the ability to make him feel such a smouldering hatred.

“Just give the lute to Lucrezia,” he snapped impatiently. “She can play very prettily.”

His elder brother smiled. “And Cousin Cecilia can sing for us.”

“I have a voice like a goose,” pitched Cecilia, rolling the sleepy Jofré softly to the cushioned floor.

This drew a laugh only from Lucrezia.

“Let us keep quiet,” Cecilia suggested. “Jofré is asleep. And there is much we still have not discussed.”

“Yes,” said Cesare. “There are still so many things we must catch up on, dear cousin.”

Cecilia arched her brows slightly. “What more do you wish to know?”

Everything, he felt like saying. What had happened all those years in Milan, in the very belly of the Visconti-Sforza serpent? Were the rumours about Ludovico Sforza true? Had she really been his whore?

“Why don’t you tell us more about the Sforzas?” He played absently with a lock of Lucrezia’s flaxen hair. “Since our dear sister is soon to become one.”

“Or be devoured by one,” she added nonchalantly.

Cecilia stretched out her legs. “There is something terribly cold and snakish about the Sforzas...I have long suspected they are more reptile than human.”

“What do you know of Giovanni Sforza?” enquired the bride-to-be.

“By all accounts, I’ve heard he’s a parti-coloured fop with slashed sleeves and a pearl earring.” Cecilia laughed. “But not so bad. A bit of a fool, but it is much better to have a foolish husband than a crafty one.” She gave a sensual little shrug, that most physical of gestures. He suddenly recalled their childhood spent together, the cloistered palazzo at Subiaco, of endless afternoons, just like this, laden with a sensual stupor...

Cesare wondered how she had survived Milan at all, with its sombre, stoic population of whey-faced peasantry, that stolid, red-brick fortress that Ludovico Sforza deigned to call a palazzo. What had her life been there, compared to the vibrant, extravagant chaos of Rome?

Juan set aside that accursed lute, and stood up. His languid posture towered over the recumbent Cecilia. His hand brushed aside her hair as he knelt to kiss the nape of her neck. He gave his brother a faintly knowing look, a smirk of intended victory.

The young cardinal returned his brother’s gaze with a mirrored threat.
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Cecilia Gallerani
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PostSubject: The Borgia Belligerence   Sat Mar 19, 2011 3:14 am

Dinner was served. It was indulgent, even by a Duchessa’s standards – a slivered calf’s head and several dishes of game birds, followed by plates upon plates of desserts. It was a banquet fit for a score of gluttonous delegates, even though the actual guests present in Lucrezia’s chambers numbered only four. Cecilia ate enough to fill two grown men of healthy appetites, without having to contemplate whether or not the spatchcock was seasoned with arsenic, or the marzipan dusted with a generous smattering of cantarella.

Indeed, she ate a great deal of everything.

But under the auspices of stuffing her mouth, she was studying her family closely. They may have dressed themselves like adults, in damask and silk and fur, but beneath it all, they were the same petty, selfish, jealous, spoiled children that they had always been.

Lucrezia had grown from a petulant child into a great beauty; though Cecilia saw that at times the beauty wore thin, like powder dusted too finely, and the child beneath showed through like an angry, red welt.

Cesare had filled out pleasingly – there was a frenetic gravity to his presence that reminded her more of a violent condottiere than a young cardinal. He looked like he could kill a man with those gloved hands, sever his neck like an apple from a branch.

And Juan? He was not so fine-looking as his brother, but he was fairer. His brown eyes were light with mirth as they passed over her, and she nearly trembled with pleasure each time she felt his gaze drift along her body. She stopped her thoughts abruptly, and dedicated her energies into dismembering the roast fowl in front of her.

“Slowly, my dear,” commented Cesare. “You’ll choke on that duck leg if you’re not careful.”

Juan laughed seditiously. “What is this tyranny, Brother? Let her eat what she pleases.” He took Cecilia’s hand and contemplated it briefly, smiling.

She withdrew her hand graciously. “You don’t want me getting too fat, Cousin.”

“Oh, he’ll have you as fat as he can get. Fatten you up like a Michelmas goose, before eating you.”

“Cesare!” interjected Lucrezia – the petulant jut of her mouth told that she was growing impatient of all the attention being lavished on her widowed cousin. “Don’t be so vulgar.”

Juan looked fatly pleased, like a lazy leopard that had gorged itself on a victorious kill. “You see? Madonna Lucrezia says that I am right. I might as well have the will of God on my side.”

Cesare scowled into his goblet, and muttered poisonously. “You fatuous idiot.”

“What was that, you sly little sheep?”

“I called you a fool, you disgusting imbecile!”

His brother laughed. “You’re not a Borgia at all. You must be Domenico d’Arignano’s son.”

Cesare’s eyes burned. He took his white kid cardinal’s glove from his pocket, and flung it at Juan.

Juan fished the glove out of his soup. “What is this?” he asked, brows raised.

“Make a guess.”

“Your imbecilic invitation to a duel?”

“Praise be to the King of Heaven,” Cesare responded sardonically. “My Lord the Duke of Gandia at last has caught on.”

Juan snickered, unprovoked. “I accept your challenge, Brother.”

“And it’ll be alla Guerra, not a Piacimento.”

Cecilia gave a shallow laugh. “That is quite enough, Cesare.”

“It will be your death, not mine,” muttered Juan, unmoved.

“They are always like this.” It was Lucrezia, sipping her wine indifferently. “Don’t be alarmed.”

Cecilia wondered if Donna Lucrezia had misjudged her siblings – Cesare seemed quite prepared to bludgeon his brother’s brains out with his enamelled silver goblet. But she said nothing, merely averted her gaze, trying to force patience into stilling her avid curiosity.

The brothers carried on their aggrandised bickering, ignoring the second conversation taking place at the table.

“They fight all the time,” repeated Lucrezia softly, almost as though to reassure herself more than Cecilia. “It means nothing.”

Juan rose from his seat. “Sleep well, Brother. I’ll see you tomorrow morning in the courtyard. Lucrezia, a kiss please.”

The pretty creature obliged him a charming kiss.

“And you too, Cousin.”

Cecilia leaned towards him with a small, indulged smile, presenting her face to be kissed. Her lips parted slightly when his hands caught her hair, and he kissed her mouth deeply. It was not quite the chaste farewell she was expecting, but she did not push him away.

“Good night,” he said.

Her skin burned as she turned to face Cesare’s belligerent gaze.
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Luisa Orsini

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PostSubject: Lucky   Sat Mar 19, 2011 3:22 am

The Palazzo di Orsini was filled with music. Servants walked in fast steps with silver jars of wine in order to make sure there was never an empty cup in the room. Some couples danced, others whispered words of love and lust behind the columns. Several games were being hosted but the most popular of all were the card games, which a man could enter rich, and walk away poor.
It was getting late when she spotted him. He was at the door, his eyes searching for something. When their gazes met, Luisa smiled and he quickly moved towards her, ignoring everything around him.

“You are late, my lord,” she told him, imitating a tone of reprobation. And yet she smiled.

“I hope this does not mean you are not going to tell me your name…” There was something in his hazel eyes that caught Luisa’s attention. It was a hint of frustration, maybe even impatience. She wondered what had happened during his wedding night. Maybe Clarice de’ Medici had been a disappointment for the Portuguese nobleman. Poor little virgin, Luisa thought. Men like Afonso das Neves could not know how to be gentle. He was a sailor, after all.

“I told you I would tell you my name if you came. But maybe we should dance first.” Her hand held his and she pulled him to the center of the room. Soon they were dancing again together and although they were two, they moved like one. She saw him relax, the tension leaving his body.

Several glasses of wine later and a trip to the card table and he was smiling and laughing with all the jokes that were told. However, Afonso’s attention did not leave Luisa. His arm was surrounding her waist, as she sat on his lap, claiming her as his. Now and then he would kiss her cheek, lips and neck and she would let him. Soon it was clear to Luisa nothing had happened between him and Clarice: he was still hungry.

Afonso lost the card game, along with the considerable sum of money he had brought with him. But he couldn’t manage to pull himself from the table. In fact, Luisa convinced him to stay a bit more, making him ask for a loan, and play the next hand. She assured him this time he would win. But he did not.

“Do not be upset, my lord. What is exactly what they say in your country? Sorte ao jogo, azar ao amor* . Right?” She did not wait for a reply. Instead she kissed him; moments later she was pulling him away from the crowd to a luxurious chamber in the upper floors of the palazzo.

Soon his hands were on her dress, filled with haste as though time was running out and he needed to have her. Luisa did not mind. She wanted him too. But suddenly he stopped.

“Is something wrong my lord?” She wondered if his uncle had taught him well, and he was about to say he couldn’t have her because he was married. But she should know men better, she thought, once he told her with a smile:

“You haven’t told me your name yet, my lady…”

“It’s Luisa. Luisa di Orsini.” She kissed him.

“Luisa…” Afonso seemed to be lost in the name, his hand caressing her golden hair. “Are you a spy Luisa?”

She smiled, her hand finding a way between his shirt so she could touch his warm chest.

“If I was a spy, Afonso, do you really think I would tell you my name?”

“Of course not. That wouldn’t make sense.”

“Exactly my love. Now please let me take care of you. Since the child you have at home is not able to do so.”

He was about to say something, perhaps to defend his wife, but Luisa silenced him with a kiss. He kissed her back. Soon they were naked, and on the soft bed. Before the light of the dawn break, they were already lovers.

*Lucky in games, unlucky in love.
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Renata Ferrari

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PostSubject: Message from Rome   Sat Mar 19, 2011 8:50 am



It is was in the fall of our Lord in November 1494, King John II (João II) of Portugal and the Algarves and his wife, Queen Eleanor of Viseu.


It was beautiful fall crisp morning, as I thought I could hear birds singing outside of my bedroom window on a nearby tree. Thinking nothing of it, I rolled back in my bed and fell once again fast asleep. Sometime during the time I was sleeping, one of my maids quietly moved about my bedchambers slowly opening the curtains from the windows or preparing my bath.

Hearing the curtains being drawn revealing the sunshine through the windows, I slowly opened my eyes to see Mercedes and Dolores entering into the room as the maid curtsey before me and then left the room. Leaving my two of my five Ladies-in-Waiting with me.

“Good Morning, milady.” I heard Dolores said to me smiling as she walked over to another window.

“Good morning, Dolores.“ I replied back to her smiling; as I grabbed my silk robe and put it on as I walked over towards the table near the window and looked out on such a lovely view gardens; which was situated back of the castle in the courtyard.

Looking out of the window, I said over my shoulder, “I see it’s going to be another lovely day. ”

“Yes it is, milady. But a cold morning to start” Dolores replied agreeing as she fixed my bed. I then heard Dolores asked me, “do you want me to layout your riding clothes?”

“Yes that would be lovely, Dolores.” I replied as I turned slightly away from the window, and I watched her making my bed and fluffed up the pillows. I continued on to say to her, “the blue one…you know which one I’m talking about. And, please have the stable ready our horses.”

Seeing Dolores nodded back in reply to me and then turned towards Mercedes were quietly talking for a moment or two and Mercedes left the room and Dolores continued in her duties. It was about the same time that Theresa, another of my Ladies-in-Waiting entered into the room.

“Theresa, good morning.” I greeted Theresa, as she walked over to me.

“Good morning, my lady.” Theresa replied back. She went on, “Just wanted to let you know that your bath is drawn for you.”

“Thank you, Theresa. “ as I thanked her. I headed off towards the bathroom. I stopped for moment, “Theresa, don’t forget that Mercedes, Dolores, yourself are going out riding with me. So tried to find some time to change into your riding habit (clothes) prior to breakfast.“

“Aye my lady.” Theresa replied back as she nodded back to me and I turned and headed off to the bathroom.

Meanwhile during the time I was gone, my handmaidens both Dolores and Theresa were cleaning up and the began to prepare my riding habit (clothes). It was about twenty minutes later that I came out of the bathroom dressed in my silk robe and found my riding clothes already out on my bed and with the help from both Dolores and Theresa, I began to get dressed. With the help from my two Ladies-in-Waiting, I put on my bluish-silver with silver leaf design brocade around yoke and collar of the bodice of silk velvet gown. The gown itself is fitted towards my body and the waist seam falls just a tiny bit above the natural waistline. There is silver trim at the waistline.

The gauntlets are trimmed with silver braid at top, bottom, and with two rows at the gathered center. They are tied onto the gown with thin dark blue cord tied with a bow. The sleeves are a light crinkled fabric, and the cuffs are actually smocked. The sleeves are tied around the forearm with 2 thin dark blue cords, and the wrist has a double strand at the edge. The back of the bodice laces up. Then I walked over and put on my dark brown boots for riding.

Finally dressed, I walked over and sat down at my vanity table put on my gold flowered necklace as well as my earrings before brushing my long wavy golden hair. After brushing my hair, and with the help from Dolores, braided my hair and pulled it up on my head. Finally finished dressing, I stood up in my riding clothes and made sure that everything was in place.

During the time that I was dressing, I saw the reflection of the looking glass, Elisabete walking back into the room with tray loaded with food, ranging from fruits to cheese, bread and pitcher of mead for breakfast with Amelia following behind her.

“My lady, the horses are ready for you and your handmaidens.” Mercedes said to me, as she reminded me about the horses.

“Thank you, Mercedes.“ I replied back to her smiling. I then sent on to say to her and those in my bedchambers, “Come let us have breakfast before I go riding.”

With that said, my Ladies-in-Waiting and I sat down at the table and began to have breakfast and began to talk about this and that.


++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


It must have been twenty minutes later that three of my Ladies-in-Waiting and I rode out of the palace on horseback and headed towards my secretive place that my Ladies-in-Waiting and I know about. It was about an half an hour later that my handmaidens, Dolores, Mercedes and Theresa and myself arrived at my secret place that is surrounded by woods and running stream with an clearing near a small waterfall. It is here that my handmaidens and I stopped for awhile.

As I walked along the stream’s edge, I began to think about what has happened since my arrival at my grandfather’s palace. With the death of my mother and the disowning of my eldest sister, Helena, I grew more close to my father and my elder brothers, including my Cardinal brother, Francesco. It was in the spring of 1493 that my father sent me to live with my grandparents on my beloved mother’s side. I’ve been here ever since, enjoying the Court life as well as my mother’s family.

During my time with my Ladies-in-Waiting, we heard a horse at full gallop only to see messenger boy riding towards our direction.

“Milady, milady, where are you?” I heard the messenger calling out my name.

“I’m here, boy.” I called out to the young rider as I moved closer towards the opening of my secretive place. Seeing the messenger riding over towards me and then stopped and hopped off.

“You have a message.” the messenger said to me as he hands me parchment with the de Ferrari seal.

“Thank you.” I replied back to him as I quickly opened the parchment and read the contents.


Dear sweet and most beloved sister, Ren,

It comes with a heavy heart to say that our beloved father is gravely ill. You must come at once to Rome. I don’t know how long he will remain alive. So please dear sister, come at once.

Your ever loving brother,
Francesco.



Reading this letter from my brother Francesco, I was stunned to hear the sad news about the my father taken seriously ill.

“What is it milady?” I heard Mercedes asked me with a concern tone in her voice. She must have seen the startled look on my face.

“Messenger, thank you for delivering this message to me. Go at once and let his Majesty know that I will be leaving first thing tomorrow for Rome.” I said to the Messenger; who then bowed his head and walked back to his horse, hopped on and rode back toward the palace.

Meanwhile, here I was in my secret place enjoying the beauty when off the sudden, the beauty is no more. It turned dark and gloomy as though death was waiting.

“Come my friends, we must returned to the palace and begin packing our trunks for Rome. I want everything packed and ready for tomorrow.”

With that said, my Ladies-in-Waiting and I rode hard back to the palace and upon our arrival within the palace grounds we were met with the groomsmen who then took our horses back to the stables. My Ladies-in-Waiting and I headed back inside the castle, I told my Ladies-in-Waiting to start packing and that I wanted to see my grandparents, King João II and Eleanor of Viseu before I head back upstairs.

Seeing my Ladies-in-Waiting heading towards the west wing of the castle; which is where my chambers are located. I then turned towards the private chambers of my grandparents; which is where they enjoy their non-Courtly duties between themselves and other members of the family. I arrived at their private chambers near the East Wing of the castle and walked into the room. I noticed my grandfather busily working at his desk and his wife, my grandmother sitting near the fire doing some embroidery work.

“Good day, your Majesties.” I spoke up to my grandparents as I walked over towards my grandmother and leaned down and gently kissed her cheek before walking over to my grandfather, who was and what appears to be reading a parchment of some kind.

“Good day, Renata, How was your riding this morning?” My grandmother asked me as I walked over towards her and sat

“It went well, grandmamma….well that is until I received a letter from Francesco this morning. It’s about father.” I replied back to my grandmother. It was about this time that I heard my grandfather speak.

“What is the matter with your father?” my grandfather spoke up as I noticed this time he was looking up from his pile of parchment papers.

“Francesco said that father has taken ill.” I replied back to him.

“Does his Eminence know how your father got ill?”

“No, grandfather, Francesco didn’t mentioned it. I assume that he didn’t want me to worry.” I replied as I looked over at grandmother and then at grandfather.

“True, Ren.” my grandfather said to me as he nodded his head in agreement to what I said. He then continued, “So, I take it that you are making preparations for heading back to Rome.”

“Yes, grandfather.” I replied back to him. Then I heard my grandmother speak up from behind me.

“When you do leave, child?” my grandmother asked me as I turned slightly to see her.

“First thing tomorrow morning if that is possible, grandmother, it all depends on the tides.” I replied back her.

“True enough, child.” my grandfather spoke up as I watched him stood up from behind his desk and walked around his desk towards me. He then said to me, “Let us enjoy our time together as a family for tomorrow will be a busy day.”

Hearing this from my grandfather, I smiled to him and then hugged him. It was about the same time that one of the servants entered the room with the lunch tray and began to set up the table nearby with our lunch and then curtsied towards us and then left us to our lunch.


++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


Well that was about several weeks depending on the conditions of the sea, as I sailed from my mother’s homeland of Portugal to my father’s homeland of Italy, instead of heading back to Fiorentia, where we lived for awhile, but this time was Rome. The ship that I sailed on with my Ladies-in-Waiting arrived at the port city of Ostia Antica, where we rested overnight before traveling by carriage for another week or so towards Rome. It was several days that the carriage finally arrived at my family’s summer villa Palazzo di Ferrari. I noticed as the carriage drove up the road that was lined with trees on both sides of the road until it ended at the gates of the Palazzo. Behind the gates of the Palazzo di Ferrari sat the palazzo itself along with it’s beautiful gardens amongst the acreage of land that the estate is set upon.

Just as the carriage pulled up in the drive way, I saw my beloved elder brother Francesco dressed in his Cardinal robes waiting with some of the staff. Seeing my brother once again, I was so happy to be back home but also sadden to know that my beloved father is ill. With the carriage at full stop, I saw the coachman hop down and then opened the carriage door, I slowly got out of the carriage with the help from the coachman and then my ladies-in-waiting, Mercedes, and Dolores, were the two who went with me to Portugal over a year ago.

“Francesco, dear beloved brother. It is so good to see you.” I said happily to my brother as I walked up to him and hugged him.

“Dearest sister Ren, it is so good to have you back home with us.” Francesco replied smiling to me as he hugged me once again. He then went on to say, “My, how have you grown, Ren, into a beautiful young woman. I hope that our grandparents are well.” as we both walked toward the entrance of our Palazzo and went inside. We continued talking about our Portuguese grandparents before turning to the subject of our father.

“How is father, Francesco?” I asked him quietly as he showed me to father’s bedchambers.

“He’s not doing well, Ren. The Doctor thinks he has at lease three weeks to live.” my brother replied back to me.

“Oh dear father. Can I see him, Francesco?”

“Si, come.” Francesco replied as he slowly opens the door to my father’s bedchambers and we both waked into the bedroom. As I walked into the bedroom, I saw my dear beloved father sleeping in his bed. I walked over towards his bedside and gently took his hand in mine as I sat down next to him on his bed and gently kissed his hand.

“Father, I am here. Your little Ren.” I quietly said to him, with tears running down my face, hoping that he will opened his eyes to see his beloved daughter sitting next to him.

From that moment on, I stayed at my father’s bedside and praying to the Holy Virgin to heal my father.

We will see what the next day will be.


Tbc…..
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Renata Ferrari

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Location : Roma, Italia

PostSubject: Great sadness befallen the de Ferrari family   Sat Mar 19, 2011 8:59 am



The following morning after my arrival at my family’s summer Palazzo, I spent most my time in my father’s bedchambers, either reading to him or just sitting beside him with cool damp cloth wiping his brow to help bring down his fever.

“Oh mio amato padre (Oh my beloved father). My only wish is that you can hear me.” I started to say to him softly trying not to get choked up with tears. I tried as I might but I felt my eyes getting watery. Seeing my beloved father lying there sleeping, I began to wonder what would happened to me when he’s gone to the Holy Angels. Fathers are the one who should start thinking about getting their daughters married into prominent families and starting families.

But sadly not in this case, with my father ill who knows if he even talked about marrying off his youngest child. But little did I know that my father had already talked with my elder brother Cardinal Francesco about this matter but has kept this matter quiet.

As the hours wears on, I was still sitting nearby reading a book, when I heard footsteps entering the room. I quickly looked over to see my brother, Francesco waving his hand to me as though he wants talk to me. Seeing this, I quietly placed my book down on a night table as I got up from my chair and walked over towards my brother. We both stood in the shadows and watched our dear father still sleeping.

“Ren, you looked tired. Perhaps you should go and take a walk in the gardens.” my brother Francesco quietly said to me, showing his concern for me.

“I’m fine, brother.” I quietly replied back to him with some agitation in my voice.

“No, Renata. You are not.” My brother started to say to me, as he walked me out of our father’s bedroom and the closed the door to the bedroom. I heard him said to me calmly, “Ren, please at least for me, go outside and walk around the gardens. Go and enjoy the fresh air. If father wakes up, I call for you. Other than that, go outside.” the tone in his voice was very insistent.

“Alright, brother. If I must.” I replied back to him with a heavy sigh.

“Ren, it is alright.” Francesco started to say to me as he held me in his arms. I heard him whispering in my ear, “I know you are scared about losing father. But we must remember all of all the good things that we have shared with him. “

Hearing this I was already weeping and my tears staining my brother’s cassock. I step back from my brother’s embrace.

“Don’t worry, dearest one, I will stay with father while you are gone. If anything happens. I call you. Please do this one thing for your beloved brother.” I heard Francesco said to me as smiled gently, as I felt his hand underneath my chin and raised my head to where our eyes met.

“Si, Francesco.” I softly replied back to him with tears still streaming down my face. It was about the same time that Francesco saw Mercedes walking down the hall.

“Mercedes, please take your mistress outside for some fresh air.” Francesco said to her. I saw Mercedes nodded back in reply.

Come, milady.” Mercedes said to me as I looked at her. She walked over towards me and gently placed her arm around my shoulders and we slowly walked down the hallway towards the stairs leading down to the main area of the palazzo and then walked through main area towards the back of the palazzo until we reached sitting room with two doors leading outside on the courtyard. From the steps of the courtyard lead down towards the gardens.

From the steps of courtyard patio, I walked down the stairs and walked the path towards the gardens with my Lady-in-Waiting Mercedes following behind me just incase something happens to me. As I walked along the path, I began to reminisce of the how I got this far.




**************** FLASH BACK *********************




It all started on that fateful day 2nd of December1478 as I remember my father telling me years later. It was the day I was born but also the day I lost my mother all in the same day. As a young child I began my studies with my tutor, Sophia, who helped me to become well-educated. My studies would vary from singing to speaking Portuguese, Spanish, French as well as Latin fluently in both reading and writing. The singing as those who have heard me sing, called me the ‘voice of angel’…due to my beautiful singing voice of Lyric coloratura soprano.

As young child, and the youngest of the six, I began to sneak out of my studies to watch my elder brothers practice their art of warfare and it was here that I too began to learn how to wield a sword, archery, as well as horseback riding; of which I became quite excellent horsewoman throughout the area of Fiorenza. It was something that my beloved father had her learn at a very young age alongside her two elder brothers. With most of my older siblings marrying off to prominent families in various places in Italy and my older brother but youngest of the three brothers, Francesco went to Seminary School. I found myself quite alone with my Ladies-in-Waiting for company.

As the years wore on as I grew older, what was once a happy family began to turned upside down due to treachery within our family. It was in that fateful year of 1480 that my beloved father, Ambrogio found that his eldest daughter, my elder sister’s husband had betrayed the entire di Ferrari and also the de’Medici family by aligning himself to the Borgias. With such treachery, my eldest sister Helena was sadly disowned by our father and she was never mentioned again. It was from that moment onward that my father became very strict on how to raise his last two children, Francesco and myself

With Francesco studying in Rome, I was sent to Portugal to live with my grandparents, HM King John II and his wife, Queen Eleanor of Viseu and that was around 1493.




++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++



As I walked around the garden reminiscing of the past, I found myself at the marble steps of white marble stoned gazebo with four ancient wisterias all in full bloom. I walked up the stairs and sat down on the velvet cushions and looked up at Mercedes.

“Mercedes, what will happened to me now if my father dies?” I asked her.

“I don’t know milady. “ Mercedes replied back to me as she walked over towards me and sat down next to me. I then heard Mercedes continued on to say, “One thing, milady, I fear that your brother will be finding suitors worthy of your affections.”

Hearing this, I looked over at Mercedes with stunned by her words about suitors and husbands.

“Oh heaven forbid, Mercedes.” I replied back to her stunned by what my Lady-in-Waiting had just said to me. I went on to say, “Marriage is not the one thing on my mind.”

Seeing my Lady-in-Waiting nodded back in reply. We continued talking about this and about that, but mostly it was about my father. As we talking inside the gazebo, I thought I heard someone calling out for me. It wasn’t until the caller got closer that Mercedes and I stood up from our bench and stepped outside from the gazebo only to see Dolores running towards us and calling out my name.

“Donna Renata….. Milady….. come quick. It’s your father.” Dolores said to me as she stood before me out of breath.

“Oh dio.” I quietly said to myself. Turning to both of my ladies in waiting, “Come.”

With that said, we ran towards the Palazzo’s courtyard patio and then inside the Palazzo and then went upstairs of the East wing towards father’s bedchambers. Seeing my brother Francesco waiting for me outside of father’s bedchambers.

“What is it, Francesco?” I asked him sounding a bit worried.

“Come with me Ren.” my brother said to me as he opened the door and we both walked into the room. Seeing father still lying on his bed asleep, I got an odd feeling that something happened during the time that I went outside for my walk; as I walked over to my father’s bed and stood next to it and gently took my father’s right hand in mine. I looked up to see Francesco standing on father’s left side.

“Dearest brother, have you given father his last rights?” I softly said as I looked over at my Cardinal brother Francesco.

“Si (Yes), dearest Ren. I have.” Francesco replied back softly to me as we both looked down at our father lying there sleep. I then heard Francesco continued on, “it was then that our father passed away to the Holy Angels and joined Holy Father in heaven.”

Hearing this from my brother, Francesco, I felt tears welling up in my eyes. I sat down at my father’s side and wept heavily for now my beloved father has passed away in death. During as I was weeping, I could hear Mercedes and Dolores both weeping in the background. Cardinal Francesco, my dear sweet brother, walked towards me. I felt his hands on my shoulders. I then stood up and wept heavy into my brother’s arms.

Great sadness has befallen the House de Ferrari
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