AIMNÉISE Place of Pendants 2

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Chapter Three

Milan 1494

I awoke to humming, it was gentle and soft, male, the hum a slow melodic sound. I opened my eyes to see it was Leonardo. I wonder if he can sing as well as he hum? He was sitting at what appeared to be a hand carved desk, with lyre shaped leg panels angled slightly outward. Crafted pull handled drawers with decorative iron elements sat to the side.

Leonardo was sat bent over writing or drawing in determined concentration and humming.

Looking around at the room, a high vaulted ceiling, two arched slim windows let in a muted ray of sun. The walls painted in cream that looked as if sand had been mixed into the paint. The room was longer then wide. Behind where Leonardo sat where several large easels, two taller than Leonardo himself. A table full of paint, brushes and scrapers sat amid bottles of liquid, some amber others clear.

Against one wall on the floor resting against the wall painted canvases most unfinished. Beautiful women in their finery and one of an angel. Narrowing my eyes at the angel, it looked remarkably like Solai. So, the young man was one of Leonardo’s models. In the painting he looked ethereal perhaps a little more effeminate than he actually was.

I turned away from the painting to my right, an archway led to other parts of this house or warehouse if felt more of. in front of me a door stood behind the three steps where I had lost my balance. Dropping my gaze to the marble floor, the intricately design of it with flowers set into angled lines, was beautiful.

To the right of the door a sword sat on a holder, mounted to the wall. I gasped. “Fifteenth century, light, thin, made to find gaps in armour, a diamond cross section that was flexible to handle the shock and torque of high velocity cuts and thrusting. Deep red honey timbered handle XVIII convex tapered blade. Thirty nine inches long, thirty two and a quarter inch blade. I gasped again, in perfect condition, a work of art.”

“Bella?” Leonardo said in almost a whisper. “How do you know so much about that sword?” I turned to see the shock on his face.

“I…I don’t know.” I didn’t, I was more surprised than Leonardo. “Was I…right?” I asked turning back to the sword.

“Yes…though I have never heard of a woman having such knowledge of a weapon. Has anything else returned to you?” I knew what he was asking. Did I remember my name? My shoulders slumped, I shook my head no.

“Well, I am happy to see you are awake Bella, are you feeling any better? Does your head still ache?” Leonardo rose from his desk.

My guess at him being tall was right. His ankle length blue tunic with light blue trim panels, did nothing to defer the height of him. The long sleeves of the tunic turned over at the wrists to a deep orange material on the reverse side. He wore light blue stockings and leather shoes.

I scanned my eyes back to his wide shoulders, his stance that of a person raised with refinement and culture. For an older man he held himself as a young man would with confidence and assurance.

“It’s better, thank you.” I answered dropping my eyes to the floor, should he think my gazing objectionable. “What was that tune you were humming?”

He smiles triggering the lines besides his eyes to crease. “Just something I am writing for a benefit for Lord Sforza coming soon. It is though, just an idea for the moment. Do you like the tune?” He asked his brow raising waiting for my answer.

“Yes, it’s lovely.” I swung my legs only now apprehending I had been sleeping on a long chair with the same red and gold velvet, as the chair Solai had been sitting on before my sleep.

Leonardo was next to me in three strides holding his arm out should I waver getting to my feet. I didn’t think I would, but placed my hand on his arm nonetheless. The cords of muscles beneath his sleeve flexed. This was not a weak man, and I bet beneath his clothing he had muscles to rival a warrior half his age.

Would you care for something to eat now? You have been a sleep for most of the day, you must be hungry.” I was actually starving, not knowing when was the last time I ate, not remembering anything before waking here.

I nodded when the sound from my stomach agreed with him. Leonardo raised his brow chuckling quietly. Oh lord how embarrassing. He led me from the room through an arched doorway to the side. A door less entry stood on the right of the hallway, a dining room and kitchen. A wooden table sat in the centre with enough chairs to seat six and at the far wall two arched fire pits set above a marble shelf. They reminded me of a pizza oven, strange I can remember that but not anything else. The rest of the walls were covered in shelves containing small wooden kegs, boxes, tins and bags.

The room was light an airy with two large windows against the back wall with arched tops. A pleasant room and one that was well chosen for the purpose of it.

On the centre of the table sat a large bowl of fruit and berries. Leonardo sat me at one of the chairs and proceeded to gather cheese from a low cupboard beneath the marble bench, some plates and a knife to cut the cheese. Solai strode in carrying a basket and the scent of freshly baked bread filled the air, causing my stomach to growl quite loudly.

I squeezed my eyes shut savoring the scent of the bread, my stomach rumbling again, to remind me audibly how hungry I was.

“Ah Bella, I’m happy to see you up, are you hungry?” Solai asked with a smile having heard the rumble of my traitorous stomach.

“Yes, very much so.” Another loud growl rang from a stomach that needed to be fed. Both Solai and Leonardo chuckled. Damn, did this happen whenever I was hungry?

“If you ever need to escape or hide, I do not recommend it on an empty stomach.” Solai laughed. I gave him a small smile, totally humiliated.

While we ate, I listened while Solai and Leonardo informed me about the castle and some of the people that lived and worked here. Most of the names I would never remember but I let them talk so I didn’t have to.

Solai was interested in my clothing, not failing to point out that women did not dress in manly clothing and I would need to wear something more feminine if I wanted to go out. He brought over from another table a crossbow.

“This is yours, you were wearing it, but we had to remove it before we could lay you down.” Solai handed me the weapon. It looked familiar, but that’s about as far as my mind would allow.

“I was wearing this?” Solai nodded. I laid it on the table next to me and while the two men talked, I flicked my gaze to it every now and again. I recognized that the crossbow was from the middle ages, but not the carvings of the two rams’ heads at the ends. The carvings somehow just didn’t fit with the bow itself. I knew it belonged to me, I knew it was mine, but no idea why. Maybe I am an assassin or a soldier of some kind. What else would explain why I was dressed as a man in leathers and carried a weapon.

Not to mention my knowledge of weapons. It could just be that I recognized the sword on the wall, but the amount of information I knew about it was…well illogical for a supposed female who wasn’t supposed to be wearing leather men’s clothes or possess her own crossbow.

Taking a deep breath I let my mind wander back to the young man chatting about the accomplishments of Leonardo, receiving a quirk of an eyebrow from time to time from the maestro. For a young man he was very talkative, and it wasn’t hard to tell he was devoted to Leonardo, as a son would be of a father.

Solai was particularly proud of his maestro for a recent event. I listened intently as he continued that Ludovico Sforza was crowned Duke of Milan after the death of his nephew. Leonardo had played and sang with a lyre in the shape of a horse’s skull, he had created. Not failing to mention a dozen times how his Leonardo had the best voice in all of Milan and Florence.

Leonardo rose from the table shaking his head at Solai. “I must leave you Bella I have business to attend to. I will leave you in the hands of Solai, although you may need something to plug your ears from his constant rattling.” He shook a finger at Solai. “Please quiet yourself or you are sure to give Bella a most profound headache, if she doesn’t have one already.” A headache I sure had, but the bread, the cheese and the fruit took priority.

Leonardo gave me a quick short bow and left grabbing a pink cloak from a hook by the door. The man in all his masculine appearance and comportment, was perceptibly comfortable in his own skin. I didn’t think too many men would have opted for a pink cape. Then again there was nothing to indicate that he couldn’t tangibly conduct himself in belligerent circumstances.

“It is obvious Solai that you have a great deal of affection for your maestro.” I noted cutting a small wedge of cheese.

“Bella, you have a most unusual accent, but I cannot place it.” He detracted my question with one of his own, scanning my face for a reaction to his question.

“I do?” I wasn’t aware of it myself and I certainly couldn’t tell him why, as I still had no idea where I had come from or how I had come to be here.

He sat back and eyed me warily. “It is not Spanish, nor French, and it certainly isn’t Prussian. I cannot pick up what it is exactly.”

“Well, when I regain my memory, I will be able to tell you.” I wondered the same thing myself. Where the hell did, I come from. It was obvious I wasn’t from Milan or any of the other places he had mentioned.

“Hmmmm, I would be very interested to know. It is nice though, different.” That didn’t help, if he didn’t know then there was no hope for me at this time, not until my memory return.

He poured more wine into my cup, I wasn’t sure was a good idea. I still have a pain in my head, that had transformed into a soft thudding. “Can I ask you why you were wearing a crossbow? Do you know how to use it?” He sat back in his chair opposite me.

“I really don’t know but I feel as if I have had her for some time.” Okay this is something, better than nothing, I guess.

“Her?” He raised his forehead. I shrugged not sure why I referred to the weapon as a she.

“You are a strange lady indeed. Do you think you would remember how to use it?” I wasn’t sure if he was fishing for information. Maybe he believed I was trying to fool them into thinking I had no memory. I wasn’t.

“I guess so, I…I can’t tell you though.”

“I would like very much to see you use it, but we have to be very careful. It is not a thing for a lady to be doing. It could be very dangerous.”

“How so?”

“It is not a lady’s…place to be…dressing as a man nor use a weapon. Some may see it as the devil’s work.” Something about what he said sounded familiar. Even so my cheeks reddened with anger. Not at Solai, but the male perception of the misogynistic implication.

“Oh lord well that’s rather antiquated. What is it with men, as soon as they see a woman in pants with a weapon to protect themselves, they are either the devil’s concubine or a witch?” That wasn’t exactly what I meant to say, it just slipped out. He was taken aback but only for a moment before breaking out into a guffaw of laughter. It wasn’t funny but his laughter was infectious, giving him a smile I shook my head.

A heavy knock came at the door, it was more of a sound as if a fist where belting it from the other side. Solai jumped up and rounded the table pulling me from my seat. He placed his fingers to my lips motioning me to be quiet and dragged me out the arched door down the hall to a half size door which he opened and shoved me through, whispering for me to stay quiet.

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