29 - Iron

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April 14 1478

San Gimignano, Toscana, Italy

It was dark by the time they reached Toscana, winding their way through the rugged terrain around the main road. They had followed the main for an hour or two, but as they neared enemy territory Mario took them into the trees and brush to conceal their approach from patrols on the road. That went well enough and any straggling men in red in their way was quickly taken care of. It enabled them to enter into the territory easily enough, sending in small groups one at a time to their designated positions. Mario ensured there were already quite a few squads of three to four men in the city milling about as he'd had done with his spies there. Their presence wasn't anything unnatural, and so there was no alarm sounded even with a slight increased presence. Other groups were positioned outside the city, and Mario's main group—the one in which she was included—went on foot from the trees towards a small farm house under the cover of night. There they were waiting for the darkness to deepen further and for their scout to return to ensure the men inside were ready and for a proper way in.

Catherine breathed in deeply as she adjusted her hood, using the motion to relax herself some. She glanced around at the eight other men with them, and then at Mario whom stood near the entrance of the two buildings, pacing some. She didn't blame him for being anxious; all of them felt the same, but they were also eager for battle. Vieri and his family had insulted and badgered them for long enough. It was time to end him, and she was glad to be a part of it. She liked to think the area would be happier without the family, too, although it was in an apparent good shape from what she could see in the moonless night. The particular home they were at was abandoned, though, and they were making a point to avoid people—and attention. Thus far, they were doing well, and it was only a matter of waiting.

"You ready, little one?" Ottavio spoke up from beside her. She looked up at the man, clad in leather gear and some metal armor—far more decorated than back home. It was almost odd to see him so endowed with armaments, but they were all better equipped than usual. In fact, she and Mario were, perhaps, the least decorated, but she required less to do as she needed.

"Yes," she nodded firmly, then grinned. "Are you?"

He chuckled, nudging her slightly, "Always. Stay safe, Catherine. This will not be like before or any training. There are more men, properly trained, and in a place they know. You can show no mercy, and you must be more cautious."

"I know. I won't, and I will. It might be Vieri and his family giving the orders, but the men followed willingly, and I've faced enough in our lands to know they're just as cruel. I won't stay my blade," she replied firmly, eyes hardening as Ottavio clapped her shoulder.

"Good. You have really come into your own. Mario is proud of you."

Catherine spared him a smile, and her chest swelled with joy, "Thanks."

"Shame Ezio couldn't come—Mario would have been happy to have him here," the Captain sighed softly, and the redhead shared in the feeling.

"Well, he has things to protect back home, and he can keep the city safe while we're here."

"Indeed... Still, a shame, but—ah, never mind. The scout has returned. Be ready, little one," the warrior hummed as movement caught his eyes. Sure enough, the younger, lither trainee came jogging out of the darkness to Mario, panting lightly. He bowed his head respectfully before he spoke softly with the Commander, and then was briefly given another order and took off. The older man motioned them forward, and did so again to bring Catherine by his side.

"It seems Vieri expect us," Mario began, folding his arms over his chest. "He has sealed the gates and sent his men to guard them, and he has also called many back within the city to defend it, thus why there are so few on the road."

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