Vampire Prince of Italy
@copyright Jean G Hontz 2005
It was near the turn of the century (15th) when I ran into an old acquaintance.
I’m not the kind of vampire - or Prince - who lets everyone else have all the fun. I like to keep my hand in and my reflexes sharp.
I took Vitorio with me this time, leaving Ruffina to keep an eye on other things. Vitorio had been with me for some time now, and was head of my security guards. But this was a little fun for just us. We were hunting Medici. I’d been keeping an eye on the main villa from which Cosimo di Giovanni de’Medici ran Florence for some time. But this night I wanted a closer look.
The Medicis had once been a minor house. But their fortunes had changed, despite the fact I’d been picking off the bastards over the last hundred years or so.
It galled me to admit it, but Cosimo wasn’t all that bad a ruler. He was working to bring peace by trying to put an end to the constant warfare between Florence, and Venice and Milan. He was also doing a fairly good job at keeping outside powers (mainly the bastard French but also the Holy Roman Empire) out of our business.
Given that, I had backed off on any plans I had to off him. Of course that did not mean I wasn’t going to off his sons if I could.
But there was a minor complication. I’d heard it second hand, and was here now to find the truth of it. It seemed Cosimo had found himself a real magician, as opposed to the charlatans most of the nobility employed. I wanted to see this foreign mage for myself.
We were sitting at ease on the stable roof opposite the Villa de Medici. It was easy enough to avoid human guards; and I wanted a closer look.
There was a party on. All the glitterati were there. The garden was filled with music, laughter and plots. Lanterns bathed the patios and the arbors and the gazebos in golden light. Jewels on the women’s breasts glinted with each breath they took. The men weren’t slackers on wearing jewelry either. It was the Renaissance after all and Italy, Florence in particular, was the centre of it.
We hadn’t planned anything but you never know. I might have an opportunity I couldn’t resist.
That was when I spotted him. My Angel. All those years ago, an entire existence ago, and I recognized him by the curve of his cheek. I sat up straight.
“What?” Vitorio asked me.
“I’m going to crash Cosimo’s party,” I said. “Stay here.” (Yes, I’m using current slang. Sue me.)
“But..” Vitorio said.
“Just watch. Report afterwards.”
At this point in time I seldom had anything to do with what the humans referred to as ‘society.’ Call me paranoid, but I was always worried someone would spot me for what I was. So my dealings with humans were generally through proxies.
I had, however, begun receiving invitations to major social functions. The fact I turned them all down had gotten me a reputation as a recluse; despite that, the invitations kept coming. I was exotic it seemed and they wanted to know what sort of fellow I was. There was some speculation I was pock marked or intensely ugly, or that my body was twisted in some way. Hah. Well, I was, just not in the way they thought.
My villa wasn’t far away so it took little time to go home and put on appropriate fashion. I also donned the signet ring that had belonged to my family. I’d found it after years and years of searching. I’d killed the man who’d been trying to fence it out of pure pique. He hadn’t deserved it, but there you have it. I can be testy at times.
Ruffina thought it would be fun to accompany me so she too dressed.
I had little fear we’d be turned away at the door. Cosimo prided himself on his social connections. He’d see this as a coup to be the first to drag me reluctantly out of my self-imposed shadows and he would preen at being able to introduce me to society.
I’d continued to use my own last name. And besides, I’d let it be known I was related to the Venetian family of that name. No one remembered the Abrizzis of Florence at this point in time. It was too bad that some families died out, but there you have it. And it had been a very long time ago now; Cosimo probably didn’t even know it had been one of his forbears who’d ordered us Abrizzi of Florence all murdered. I’d have to remind him before I killed him.
So, dressed to the nines, Ruffina and I arrived at Cosimo’s front door in my carriage. I myself got out and handed Ruffina out. This was not the usual protocol but I preferred it this way. The Medici servants were already talking about my foreign ways. I smiled to myself.
Ruffina can bring an entire room to its knees in a moment. Now I saw that she could pretty much do the same to a garden. Talking ceased as we strolled through the wide doorway onto the uppermost patio. We were the centre of attention.
“Signore and Signora Carmine and Ruffina Abrizzi” announced the servant in a voice easily loud enough to be heard over the entire garden.
Eyes already focused on us widened in surprise. I dare say I did not look a bit as they’d assumed I would. I looked young, for one thing, and they’d all assumed I was some ancient grizzled thing. The silence lasted only a few seconds more and then talk resumed. Our supernatural hearing allowed us to overhear the comments.
Ruffina turned her sexual whammy on full bore. I’d gotten used to it so it didn’t affect me the way it had at first, but every man in that garden probably felt his knees weaken. Ruffina glowed yet more, soaking in that approbation. It was her meat and drink. Literally.
Our host himself came forward to greet us. I found it most gratifying to see he actually hurried to be first.
“Delighted to see you Signore. Signora,” he added with a deep bow. “Where has your husband been hiding you.” Cosimo fully appreciated beauty. In art, in architecture, in fashion, in women.
“I hope you don’t mind us dropping by without an invitation,” I commented.
“On the contrary, Signore Abrizzi. I’m delighted you’ve chosen to join us. Please…” and he made a gesture of welcome to us both, and managed to peel Ruffina off my arm in the same movement. I admired that.
I suppressed my grin. Ruffina was the best spy I’d ever met. Men were so busy trying to impress her they told her things that … Well, that they ought to know better than to tell.
I was immediately surrounded too. The younger people at the party were attracted to me. I confess to turning a tiny bit of vamp whammy on. As they were eager to tell me, theyd’all thought I would be far older and be boring like Cosimo. Well they should. I was a patron of the arts and had a reputation as a businessman. Yet I looked 20ish.
The bright young things bore me off to the more exciting gathering off apart from the more formal adults. Cosimo was far too busy with Ruffina to notice. His wife was too snooty.
We joined a group in a lower patio. I barely had a moment to look around at the crowd, smiling at the young ladies flirting with me, when my eyes locked on my Angel.
He was just as beautiful as I remembered him. His hair was golden and fell in rich full curls. His eyes were the colour of glaciers, nearly white but with just a hint of blue. The clothing of the time flattered his form and his look.
He raised an eyebrow and I saw that he knew me, as I knew him. There was the merest hint of a smile on his lips.
It was some time before we two were actually introduced, formalities of the time being what they were. When finally we stood just opposite each other, he said, “You’re looking far more handsome than you did the last time I saw you.”
I was, to say the least, surprised by this. I’d expected him to pretend we’d never met. “You look the same. Nearly identical.”
“Ah, well, like you, I change little. Let’s say I have an ageless face.”
He seemed at ease. Perhaps he didn’t realize I intended to kill him. I hoped it wasn’t that he thought I couldn’t. He’d drifted away then as a woman took his arm, the crowd separating us quickly.
It was several hours later before I’d freed myself and re-found Ruffina. I’d seen enough, so she and I began fighting our way to the exit. It would take, from the look of things, quite some time to manage it. Everyone in between the exit and us stepped into our path in order to introduce themselves to us. They all seemed to know who we were.
When we finally did reach the exit our carriage awaited us. So did Julian Valois, the name he was using at present.
“Your life is forfeit,” I said to him sotto voce.
He tsk’d at me! “Whatever happened to gratitude?” the mage asked with a look I longed to wipe off his face.
“You came to kill me,” I hissed.
“True. But I didn’t, did I? And look at you now. You’ve everything you would never have had a chance for in that life, old fellow.”
Ruffina, fearing mayhem, hauled me bodily to the carriage. I swear I heard him chuckle.
“He’s very handsome,” Ruffina commented, looking back at the mage as we drove away.
The bloody mage had the audacity to throw Ruffina a kiss. She laughed with delight. I ground my teeth in impotent frustration.
The next night I dispatched Vitorio to find out where Valois was living. That turned out to be a waste of time. It seemed he was a houseguest of Cosimo’s. I’d have little luck getting at him there.
I was in my garden brooding on this when one of my newest fledglings hurried toward me to announce a visitor.
“Julian Valois, my Prince, begs an audience.”
The nerve of the bastard. “Show him in.”
I stood from where I’d been kneeling. I crossed my hands on my chest and glowered. What can I say. I was young and still a bit hotheaded at the time.
Valois entered looking totally at ease. He eyed me from my bare feet up to my uncombed mop of dark hair. “Oh, do give over on the frowns, Carmine,” he said with the merest hint of a smile.
The fledging drew in a totally unnecessary breath. Shock I imagine. She seemed to think everyone ought treat me as a prince.
“Why do you come here,” I asked, doing my best to appear calm and above it all.
His lips twitched. “I was hoping for a reconciliation. I’ve no desire to be your enemy, Prince Carmine.”
So. He knew of the Council. Knew of my position. I had no doubt he knew exactly what I was.
“Nevertheless you are. I swore I would kill you.”
“Why? Because I saved your life? How very awful of me.”
Oh, I wanted to wipe that smirk off his face. “That was no gift, Signore Valois.”
He regarded me for a long time before he said, “Perhaps not. I dare say your religious bent of mind would have preferred a martyr’s death. So much more satisfying than an eternal life of luxury.”
I was silent and doing my best not to rush forward to attempt to throttle him.
“Never mind,” he said, as if he could read all my emotions.. “That is not why I came. I came to tell you that if you attempt to murder Cosimo I’ll stop you. Even you must realize he’s been good for Florence.”
I was speechless at his unmitigated gall. In those days I thought I was the only one allowed it.
He bowed to me, obviously not expecting an answer. But to his retreating back I said, “And if I attempt to kill _you_?”
He looked over his shoulder at me. “You are free to try it, Carmine. But far better men have tried and failed. I wouldn’t advise it. Good evening.” And he was gone. He’d popped out of the garden, not even bothering to walk out through the garden gate.
Ruffina had entered the garden from the far wing of the villa just in time to see his exit. She was grinning.
I was furious. Mostly with myself. The man had murdered my family, murdered the monks in the charterhouse.. I ought to have flown at him then and there and killed him or died in the trying.
But here I stood and there he walked away.
“What a fascinating man,” Ruffina said softly as she ran a hand across my shoulders. “Darling, do lighten up. You are most handsome when you glower, granted, but I prefer your smile.”