55 - The King And All of His Men

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September 9, 1485

Venezia, Italy

"So, you were successful?" Antonio inquired, finally looking up from his diorama of the city to regard the two Assassins that had just barely paused front of him. His eyes flicked to the piece of bloodied cloth in Ezio's outstretched hand, and, after a pause, took it. He chuckled, "And to think I doubted for even a second."

"You doubted us?" Ezio smirked, folding his arms over his chest with a playful brow raise.

"Jeez, so much for your so called confidence in us," Catherine added, settling her hands on her hips as she, too, raised a brow.

The thief laughed, lifting a hand in surrender, "I jest, I jest! I have never doubted either of you from the beginning. You both have only proven yourselves time and time again. And, like all those times, I thank-you for your work. With this last mission... we are ready to strike."

Both Assassins' jovial nature gave way to surprise as they exchanged looks with one another and then returned their focus to the leader of the Venetian Thieves Guild. The lithe man smiled with a nod before setting the cloth on the table and focusing on the model of the city once more. He reached out, grasping a red painted statue that represented the enemy, setting it aside, and then replacing it with a statue of their own. With its addition, there was now perhaps only five enemy units left, with ten of their own in place. Of course, it wasn't wholly accurate in that it was only a general model, but the notion was there.

They were winning.

They were stronger.

They were ready.

"What's the plan?" Catherine inquired, stepping forward to lean on the table, eyes focused on the model.

"It is to happen tomorrow night," the thief replied, attention flicking down the table, too.

Ezio frowned slightly as he, too, stepped closer, "So soon?"

"Your skepticism is not unfounded. I would question so quick a move myself, but while you have done your work, so, too, have I done mine," Antonio grinned, almost fox-like. "I have positioned my thieves, as you see, and they are where they need be. All that remains is removing the final obstacle: Emilio's remaining men to strike at the man himself."

"You mean the main guards around the Palazzo?" the Auditore mused.

"No, Emilio has posted new archers recently. My men have marked their exact locations for you, and given notes of their patrol routes. I need you to kill them, but you must do so quietly. We do not want their absence to go unnoticed."

"They'll have to report in eventually—that won't go unnoticed... so you'll have your men replace them once they're gone then?" Catherine interjected as she stood up straight once more, folded one arm across her waist while her other hand tapped her chin thoughtfully.

Antonio nodded, "Exactly. As each patrol falls, my men will replace them."

The young man looked to the thief, "What of the other guards then?"

"When you have finished with the archers, we will regroup in front of this building here," the leader of the thieves responded, gesturing to a building they knew very well, "and discuss the next steps."

Both assassins glanced to one another, but it was only once the redhead nodded that her companion returned his gaze to Antonio.

"Not a problem. We'll take care of the archer and return to you."

"Tomorrow night."

Ezio chuckled, "Yes. Tomorrow night. Don't worry—Catherine won't let me mix it up."

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