30 - Southern Sun

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April 14 1478

Monteriggioni, Italy

"Catherine-Catherine, wake up. We're almost there. You can see the city in the distance."

The redhead yawned as she lifted her head from Ezio's shoulder, rubbing at her eyes. It was still dark, but it had to be near morning as the approached the last bend before the city would be fully exposed before them. She looked around, taking note of the other carts, one ahead, two more behind, and then the decently-sized entourage of horses all around. Mario led them on a stallion, and she could make out Ottavio leading the front cart. They had been traveling for hours now, and there was a thick scent of blood from behind. There was also the distinct scent of sweat and grime, which made her nose curl. After all the celebrations they would all need long baths.

"How is everyone faring?" she asked after another yawn.

He looked back, "I think we lost one or two, but the others are staying strong. The Doctor met us in one of the trade towns along the way and brought some help, so they've been tending to whoever they can. He said he has a few homes set up to really take care of them in the city, so they should pull through alright."

"Oh, good. Did Mario say what would happen to those who didn't make it at San Gimignano?"

"We could not gather them all, and there were not enough carts. Many had to be left, but those we did manage to bring with us will be given proper funerals."

"Oh," she sighed softly as she gazed through the slits of the clothed top of their cart. She could see most of the men sleeping now, or some were possibly unconscious. Hopefully all the wounded would make it through. "I guess we should just be glad we made it back. How are you doing, by the way? Did you drive all the way here?"

He chuckled, "I did, but my mind is too busy to rest. I've a great deal on it after everything that has happened tonight. I need to speak to Mario for sure-if he is not too drunk after this."

"Please. Have you ever seen him drunk? I know he wasn't during Christmas celebrations and everyone drank a lot," she snickered back, getting a laugh from him.

"That is true. I suppose I will speak to him tonight then.... And if you are not too weary, I would have you there, too," he mused, and when she looked at him with a raised brow, he went on. "I believe there are things you should hear."

"...That you can't tell me now?" she mused a bit wryly.

He smirked, "Not yet. It's for both of you. I need to speak with Mother and Claudia, as well."

"I'm sure they'll be thrilled you're back safe and sound-unless they think you're off fraternizing with a woman."

"You and your jealousy," he teased, earning a quick smack to his arm as he laughed. "No, I told them I would be back... and... well, I think I know how to bring Mother back some-here."

Ezio handed her the reigns and then shuffled through his vest to bring out a white feather. He twirled it briefly, his smile gentle.

"A feather?" she inquired.

He nodded, "Yes. Claudia mentioned Mother has been holding feathers-the ones Petruccio had been using for... well, he never said. He was making a surprise, but he was taken before he could finish it. It had to do with feathers, though, so I think... I think if I bring her some, she will come back to us. Maybe. I hope so."

"Hey, it's worth a shot," Catherine replied, nudging him gently. "If it does work, let me know, yeah? I'll see about getting feathers for her, too."

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