The Malice of Fortune
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Against a teeming canvas of Borgia politics, Niccolò Machiavelli and Leonardo da Vinci come together to unmask an enigmatic serial killer, as we learn the secret history behind one of the most controversial works in the western canon, The Prince...
When Pope Alexander dispatches a Vatican courtesan, Damiata, to the remote fortress city of Imola to learn the truth behind the murder of Juan, his most beloved illegitimate son, she cannot fail, for the scheming Borgia pope holds her own young son hostage. Once there, Damiata becomes a pawn in the political intrigues of the pope’s surviving son, the charismatic Duke Valentino, whose own life is threatened by the condottieri, a powerful cabal of mercenary warlords. Damiata suspects that the killer she seeks is one of the brutal condottierri, and as the murders multiply, her quest grows more urgent. She enlists the help of an obscure Florentine diplomat, Niccolò Machiavelli, and Valentino’s eccentric military engineer, Leonardo da Vinci, who together must struggle to decipher the killer’s taunting riddles: Leonardo with his groundbreaking “science of observation” and Machiavelli with his new “science of men.” Traveling across an Italy torn apart by war, they will enter a labyrinth of ancient superstition and erotic obsession to discover at its center a new face of evil—and a truth that will shake the foundations of western civilization.
scrawl, the ink a cheap oak-gall brown: Gevol int la carafa. The Devil in a jar. This was followed by an accounting of the streghe present: Zeja Virgi nia. Zeja Maddalena. Zeja Francesca. And finally Zeja Caterina, the white-eyed seeress who had conducted the divination Damiata and I had witnessed—and who was almost certainly the untutored author of this marginalia. Beneath the list of doomed streghe was another brief litany, the script much more elegant than the witch’s scrawl, although here
necks. At the end they pleaded for mercy like women. I heard them die. And then I had my wedding night.” She blinked furiously. “Your monster is dead, Niccolò. And your city is saved.” “Damiata.” I spoke sharply, rousing her from this sleep. “He isn’t dead.” I halted there, wishing I could not see the face that still floated before me, a materialization of my dream. “Tonight I saw the face of evil.” She shook her head in angry disagreement. “When it was over, he had me look through that little
seemed to come from behind us, yet also from beneath us. I turned to see torchlight erupt from the sunken stairwell. Valentino’s head rose above the pavement, for an instant appearing to have been presented on the tip of a pike, much as he had displayed Ramiro. But he continued to emerge into view, his torso entirely intact yet nearly motionless, as if some great hand were lifting him from the depths of the earth. Followed by Michelotto, Valentino strode directly to us, his eyes sweeping
elect his own pope only to see him die … I knew that if Pope Julius restored Cesare’s office, I might never have another chance, that he could take my Giovanni anywhere …” She choked back a sob. “I thought that buried palace would be my tomb. But at least my son would live knowing I came back for him. Instead you saved us, Niccolò.” She held me away so that she could look at me. Her eyes were afire. “I have horses waiting for us at the Arch of the Septimii.” She took my hand. “We’ll say the rest
of my wedding night would be to persuade Marietta from her juvenile indifference for all men. I never imagined that she had already acquired the taste.” “But she slept with you.” “It was the only way to get rid of all the Corsini loitering outside the half-open bedroom door, banging the kettles and pots, waiting for the display of the bloody sheet. I am almost certain Marietta bit her lip to ensure their satisfaction.” “Not every girl bleeds the first time.” Damiata stifled a little giggle