Thursday, 20 November 2008

Chapter Twenty Four

Donatella left the gates of the monastery with a spring in her step.

She had expected to be challenged at any moment, but nobody had questioned her as she made her way up the stairs and through the main gate. She reckoned that she had perhaps a couple of hours at most before the guard would check the cell and find out that the prisoner in the manacles was not the helpless girl that he would be expecting but rather a humiliated and no doubt furious priest. She had to make some distance and then stop to think what she was going to do next.

Returning to Venice was one option, although that felt like an admission of failure, like a whipped cur running for home at the first sign of trouble with her tail between her legs. No, it would have to be back to Ravenna first, as her original intention had been. She wouldn't mind an opportunity to talk with Signor Bompanzini again, and perhaps find out a little more about what had happened to her father.

She stopped by the side of the road and stretched her arms. The joints of her arms and shoulders still felt as if she had been hanging from a trapeze swing for a week, and while the cut on her cheek from the priests whip had stopped bleeding it was now stinging and throbbing like a bitch.
She looked at the papers that she had picked up from the desk in the cell where she had been held.

There was the list of names - most of which she recognised as influential members of the Venetian Grand Council including her father. The symbols and numbers made no sense, although the figures could conceivably be payments in ducats. If that was the case, then it would come to a very sizeable total indeed - she totted the numbers up in her head and reckoned that the total would in the millions.

They would be very generous payments, to say the least.

She continued her journey and reached a crossroads where the track from the monastery joined the main coast road that she had travelled along so recently and in such different circumstances. She reflected that she was now a very different young woman from the one who had rode along the road with the wind in her hair and the sun in her eyes. She had been naïve in her trust of Bompanzini - she promised herself that she would not make that mistake again.
From up ahead she heard the noise of a troop of men on the march. She had no wish to attract any unwanted attention, so she ducked behind a wall at the side of the road and covered herself completely with her black monk's robe. She would be invisible to all but the closest examination.

The soldiers were adjacent to the wall now and she could over hear some of them talking. It was difficult to make much out but she managed to hear a few snatches of conversation. She was sure that the men were soldiers from the papal army. The forces ranged against the republic of Venice were now much more serious than a few companies of condottieri - this wasn't going to be a skirmish for short term advantages, it was going to be a full blown war. She was just letting the implications of this sink in when she heard two further things that chilled her to the core 'di Rossini' and 'reward'.

They knew who she was, and they were looking for her.

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