64 - The Ruler, The Killer

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January 11, 1488

Venezia, Italy

"So, how's the married life treating you?" Rosa inquired as she walked besides Catherine, the two women roaming along the edges of the Venetian courtyard. The water sloshed against the side of the brick walls, the sea air filled their noses, and the bustle of both city and sea life rang through their ears. It was a cool morning, although bearable with an extra cloak for the thief, while the redhead was comfortable in the garbs she wore. The young—now married woman—grinned at her companion, though paused to glance back at the crowd. Habit, mostly. A safe one.

"Well, it'll be two years by September and I don't want to strangle him yet, so I'd say we're doing well," she grinned as they turned to walk around a corner. "You should try it, you know—I'm sure Ugo would be happy to make an honest woman out of you."

Rosa barked with laughter, "Ha! He wishes! Ah, but no—we've decided how we are is best. Never know when I'll get tired of his stupid face."

"Rosa, you're terrible. Married life really isn't that bad. Frankly, all that's changed is that I'm officially Lady Auditore and not Wolfe. Not that people didn't call me that before, truth be told. That, and now I get to lord the fact I have a higher 'rank' than Claudia by family line. It's fun to tease her, although she then threatens to cut our coin purse, so it all works out."

"Well, neither of us have relatives, so I suppose we don't need to worry. But I'm glad it's been good for you. Although, I'm still mad at you for making me lose my bet," the thief snorted, and Catherine laughed.

The redhead only wished it had been as good as Rosa thought it was. Or, rather, that she had thought it was as good.

In a way, she supposed it had been. Templar activity had decreased ever since their encounter with Rodrigo, but that wasn't hard to believe. They were focusing their efforts on Cyprus, and with an Assassin-allied Doge in power, they couldn't do much without repercussion. That didn't mean they weren't working elsewhere, however, and Catherine didn't doubt Rodrigo was doing just that right now. Then again, with a Clock at his disposal, she supposed he didn't need to worry or do anything—he had a power belonging to a god, and with her not sure she could stop him, he was no doubt confident he would win.

The notion had haunted her ever since that day almost two years ago now. Even with all the plans they'd made and the reassurance her husband gave her, the memories plagued her in both her dreams and waking hours; whispering horrors in her ear; promising her downfall; swearing all she loved would die. She tried to be brave in the face of it all. She'd tried to keep hope and courage, but it was a struggle. Every day she fought, and every night she went to bed not sure if she was ahead or thousands of paces behind again. Ezio was there to pull her back, but she could see it paining him; see it weighing him down. He was her anchor, and yet she could do nothing to build him up, either. It tore at her heart; how she was no longer the woman who gave him strength. She would try to hide it, and sometimes it worked, but she knew he felt it. They all did. Even Mario and Claudia and Maria.

She did hang onto the hope, though—the one forged by their allies and hard work over the years. The looming threat did not go unchallenged. The first step was having their Doge emplaced, and with Bartolomeo bringing order, it went underway quickly enough. From there, their spies in the form of thieves and courtesans got to work. The location of ship records was found, although news of the ship to Cyprus and it's return would not be known until it disembarked. Word of Templar activity trickled in, though nothing of great importance came. Sometimes there was work to be rid of their enemies' allies, but for the most part it was a long, long waiting game. One of despair tied with hope. That was just in Venezia.

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