41 - Another One Bites the Dust

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November 15, 1479

Monteriggioni, Italy

"Here's another way you can hold it—maybe you'll like it better," Catherine explained as she took the thin, stiletto dagger from Claudia's hands and turned it so the blade was facing downward. The young woman gripped it tight and then looked to the redhead for instructions. Her teacher lifted her arm up so that her own blade faced outward some, and the motion was copied. The redhead grinned. "Right. You want to keep your stance like this when you hold it so you have a defense, but can lash out, too. This style really works best for downward motions, although that might actually work in your favor since you'll probably be shorter than most of your attackers. You can stab their legs or stomach or something, which will help you escape them if need be."

Claudia listened closely, nodding as she kept her face serious. She looked to her knife, slicing it down just as she'd been told at some invisible enemy. It was much easier to do in the pants and shirt she wore—a huge surprise for the redhead when she'd arrived for the lesson—although it could be done well enough in her dresses. However, the young Auditore had insisted her garbs remained unsullied by dirt and sweat, so Annetta had provided her with some men's' wear to use instead. They worked well enough, and the young lady had built up a decent sweat.

Of course, the most surprising part of all was just the fact Claudia had come in the first place about a few weeks ago to start working on her skills. Catherine would have been lying if she said she hadn't thought Claudia would make good on her request to learn how to fight with a dagger. Oh, the young woman had been excited at the initial mentioning, but it had taken about a week for her ankle to heal well enough to move around the city without issue again, and then she'd been fairly busy. The memory had been pushed to the side by then, so the redhead had stared almost stupidly when Claudia had come up to her late one evening, demanding they train tomorrow morning—after Ezio had gone to do his work in the fields. She hated to admit she didn't expect the young Auditore to keep at it for the next few weeks, but she had done wonderfully. Oh, she was still a novice and made plenty of mistakes, but she was determined and willing, and it showed.

They'd started with a few other typed of daggers—a thicker blade, and then a medium one. They'd even gone for a hunting type, but in the end the stiletto Claudia wielded now was the best. It was light and flexible enough for her, and could be hidden within her garb. From there they had worked on technique, and although she was not as quick as her brother to pick up on things, she kept to it. Of course, it wasn't just learning how to stab with a blade. Catherine made sure the young woman was put through some of the works. Oh, it was nothing like what the other mercenaries went through, but she was made to jog and limber up, and even work on her arm strength so she could wield with more movement and power. Claudia had been reluctant at first, but ultimately saw the logic of it and did as told—just as long as her brother and the other men didn't find out. She had a "reputation" to keep, after all. Catherine supposed she understood, but still found it a little silly.

It was what it was, though, and as long as Claudia showed improvement, she would continue with it. Mario had set that standard, anyways, when they had asked him about it, and he allowed them to use the gardens to keep it "secret". Her Uncle had been just as surprised as she and Ottavio when told about the venture, but he was more than happy to comply. The only real requirement was that she have someone to keep an eye on things since he was busy with the men. Catherine would have considered Ezio, but because Claudia wanted it kept secret he was thrown out. As such, she found her only other option was none other than the Captain. He, thankfully, had happily agreed, and although Claudia had made a huff, she ultimately agreed, although made note she was still charge of things, so he best not be a "bother". The Captain was more than willing—with a smirk, of course.

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