AIMNÉISE Place of Pendants 2

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Chapter Five

Milan 1494

I was in a store room with just enough height to clear my head. Scents of earth, wine, vegetables and something musty I couldn’t pinpoint was stifling. One could not spend a significant amount of time in this room without passing out, except maybe vegetables. I had just discovered about myself, I hate small places.

Opening the door just a fraction welcoming a breath of fresh air, the belting sound of a man’s voice reverberated through the room, no doubt could be heard in the next city. Damn he was loud.

“Where is Leonardo, boy!” He bellowed. I moved closer to the door, my face jammed into the small opening, mostly to suck clean air in, and also to hear whomever the thunderous voice belonged to wanted.

“I am sorry my lord, but he had a meeting and has stepped out for a moment. Is there something I can help you with my lord?”

“Well, don’t just stand there, boy, where has he gone and who has he a meeting with?”

This man was obviously someone important and although his voice boomed, what I could denote from Solai’s even and patient voice, he was not intimidated by him.

“I do not know my lord perhaps you would care to give me a message to pass on to him on his return?”

“What is this? A fine-looking crossbow, smaller than any I have seen, but a fine-looking weapon nonetheless.”

“It belongs to my maestro, my lord.”

“I would like this weapon for my collection. You will tell your maestro boy, I shall take this with me.”

“You will not my lord without my maestro’s permission. Even you my lord must appreciate that trust is challenging to attain in these convoluted times, and exigent once severed.” Good on your Solai, he’s far more intelligent than I have given him credit for, not that I have known him for more than a day. I held my breath, not daring to move, whomever he was talking too appears to be of an advanced rank than Solai. I just hope he’s not punished for his actions or his speech.

He was though, talking about my crossbow, well there was no way he was taking her. I don’t know who this person is, but I would damn well have something to say about that. My possessiveness of the crossbow shocked me, even though I have no memory of why, she must mean a great deal to me. Still it was mine, it belonged to me.

Before I could remove myself from the room, determined to let the booming voice know that the crossbow belonged to me a door slammed shut. Now I was panicking, did he take it. I pushed on the small storage door opening to Solai heading towards me.

“My crossbow?”

“It is alright Bella, he did not take your weapon.” Oh, thank God.

“Who was that rude man?” My hands were shaking not from fear but from anger, this gave me pause as to why I would feel so emotional over a crossbow, this is silly.

Solai quirked an eyebrow at me as if I should have known who it was, I didn’t. “He is the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza.”

“Oh, well I don’t care who he is he is not having it!” I rushed into the other room to find her sitting on the table, picking her up I held her close to my chest to a puzzled look on Solai’s face. It was obviously something precious to me, why though? It wasn’t a person it was a thing, this is strange. Still I couldn’t for the life of me put it back down on the table.

“She must be something very singular to you?” Solai gave me a speculative look.

“I think she is, I just wish I knew why.”

“I would like to see you shoot it. I bet my life on it that you are good shot, but how good remains to be seen.” He poured some wine into cups and handed one to me. “This will help to calm you down, you seem very…tense over that crossbow of yours.”

“Tell me something of this Sforza…”

“Lord Sforza.” Solai over spoke.

Huffing I said. “Lord Sforza, fine. He seems a bully and used to getting his own way. You did surprise me though, you speak well and stood up for yourself, well done.”

“Thank you. Some would see it as leading and governing.

“If you say so.”

“When Lord Sforza’s father Francesco died the family titles transferred upon the dissolute Galeazzo Maria, he being the elder brother. Lord Sforza was conferred the courtesy title of Count of Mortara.” He was full of information today. “Galeazzo though was killed in 1476 leaving his titles to his son Gian Galeazzo Sforza, he was but seven at the time.”

“That’s pretty young, poor child.” I took a sip of wine.

Solai raised his brow at me not happy I had interrupted him. “Regardless, there was a nasty struggle for the regency with the boy’s mother Bona of Savoy. Lord Sforza seized victory in 1481 of the government of Milan. There were many that tried to stop him, but as you see they failed.

“He’s still a bully.” I grumbled into my cup without taking a drink, simply smelling the woody sweet scent of the wine.

“Bella, are you going to interrupt me every minute or might I continue answering your original question?”

“Please continue.” I waved my hand in the air at him.

He rolled his eyes. “Thank you. Now the Lord married fifteen year old, Beatrice L d’Este three years ago.” Solai stopped taking watching my look of disbelief at one so young becoming a wife. “That is the normal age of marriage here, some are much younger. He does though have mistresses and he has children from some of those.”

“He has a young wife, yet he seeks out mistresses, he’s a lecher, a gigolo?”

Solai laughed. “It is not uncommon in this city and others. Some such as Lord Sforza married for position and power.

“Not for love.” I murmured, more to myself.

“Only common people marry for love, well mostly though some I am sure take advantage of marrying to increase their wealth, position and standing.” Solai gave me a bewildered look, cocking his head to the side. “Would you marry for position or for love, Bella?”

“I married for love.” My mouth once again dropped open at what I had just said.

“So, you are married then?” He leaned across the table blonde curls dropping across his brow, a wicked grin on his face. Solai really did have a beautiful face, deep brown eyes, a straight nose, high cheekbones and pouty lips. If it wasn’t for his strong square jaw, he could very well be mistaken for a female.

“I…I don’t know. Why would I have said that?” Was I married and if I was, who was I married to? I shook my head to rattle my brain, I was tired of not remembering anything and only seeing shadows and mist when I closed my eyes.

“I think you are married, although you do not wear a ring, perhaps you lost it, or it was stolen. Then again you could have sold it.” He sipped on his wine casting his eyes at me over the rim of his goblet. Each time Solai looked or watched me it was like he was scrutinizing every muscle, twinge or reflex I had. He missed nothing. The perfect detective.

“I don’t think I would have sold it Solai, who would do that?”

“A poor person.” He shrugged. “The clothes that you were wearing when you...er…crash landed here are…well-made and the finest leather I have seen, so maybe you weren’t poor, who could say.”

I had not one single idea, what I had said though ran around my brain like a mouse on a wheel, racing and getting nowhere. Not to mention if I was married then why did I not have a ring. I rubbed my finger absent mindedly. Was I married to a stingy so and so who spent his money on wine and women, or to a lazy good for nothing person? No, none of those felt right. I just knew in my gut there had to be a good reason.

Solai leaned across the table again and patted my hand. “It will be alright Bella, you will remember soon, I’m sure of it. Drink your wine.”

“Easy for you to say, you still have your brain and don’t seem to forget anything.” I grumbled.

He chuckled at my comment. “God gave me a good brain I think, that is why I am a great thief, a great painter and an amazing lover.”

“You sound more of a braggart, a little too much ego I would say, we call them an arse where I’m from, wherever that is.” I mumbled the latter.

“Better to be an arse.” He mimicked my word. “With a good brain than a feeble-minded simpleton living in a sewer drain.”

Leonardo came through the door pulling off his cloak to hang on a hook, holding a bundle with one hand.

“Bella, I have brought you some clothing…that would be more appropriate than what you are wearing, I mean no offence.” He bowed to me. “Solai will you show Bella to the spare room, so she may change. It is also where you may stay while you are here.”

“Thank you, Leonardo that’s very kind of you.”

Solai nodded taking the bundle from Leonardo. He stopped on his way through the door to turn to his maestro. “Lord Sforza came looking for you.”

“Yeah and he nearly took my crossbow. He’s not a very nice man, just a bully with a fancy title.” I added.

Leonardo raised his brow I think more at my comment than the news that this Lord wanted to take what was mine. He appeared to be amused.

“Oh, I see he didn’t take it though.” Leonardo glanced at the crossbow still clutched in my hands.

“Only because Solai refused to let him.” I turned to Solai. “I don’t think I thanked you so, thank you. You are still an arse though.” Leonardo’s chuckle. Solai’s brow furrowed before his face lit into a wide grin.

“She is just jealous because I am so great at everything.” Solai turned back to leading me to the spare room, Leonardo shook his head in amusement. I assumed most would be annoyed at my comments, not Solai though, he found delight in my words as if I was a new novelty to banter and jest with.

I followed him to a small room at the end of the hallway on the left.

“If you need any help just call out, I’m also great with my hands.” He smirked waggling his eyebrows. Yep definitely an arse.

Solai placed the bundle on a small bed and closed the door as he left, grinning like a damned Cheshire cat.

The room was small with a cream wash as the other rooms and the hall, a high ceiling arched as the other rooms. A single bed with a green floral cover stood at the head of the room. Beside the bed was a small cupboard, another piece of furniture with Lyre legs. The stone floor covered in an intricate ornate autumn brown and gold design. A smaller window than the ones in the kitchen let a small ray of afternoon sun into the room, dust mites dancing in the sunlight ray.

Getting into the clothing was not the most ladylike act I am sure I have ever performed. It took a few tries working out what was an under dress, petticoat and overdress. The bell-shaped skirt was a lovely red brocaded silk and velvet, showing just the front panel of the dark yellow under skirt. A square neckline with a bodice cut from the front was a little tight with beautiful handmade lacing.

The sleeves though were a bit tricky, they were laced from wrist to shoulder, albeit a little puffy and heavy. I certainly liked the clothing, but I felt somewhat overdressed, as if I just had too many layers. I stopped, thinking for a moment this feels like déjà vu, again. Slippers the same color as the outer dress with delicate embroidery and small beads were a little small, but not unwearable.

The bra I had on had to stay as none was provided along with no underwear. The ones I had taken off I would have to wash, discretely. At least if there was a wind, I wouldn’t have to worry about my skirts flying with being so layered and heavy I don’t think a gale would lift them. Another twinge of déjà vu hit me, this was the third one. Hopefully this was a sign that my memory would return soon.

I folded my clothing, leather pants, shirt, leather jerkin, boots and belts retying them inside the bundle cloth and pushed the bundle under the bed. I took out my braids and just let my hair hang, there was no brush, so I finger combed it to try and tame it a little, not as easy as I wish it was.

On one wall was a large mirror and I stood before it, I barely recognized myself. Not because of the clothing but because of the missing memory of who I am. Shouldn’t I at least recognize myself? Have I forgotten everything? I asked the mirror. What is my favorite color. My eyes suddenly widened, my favourite color is red, the shade that’s deep and dark like the color of blood. I love chocolate, dark but not bitter, smooth but not too melty. I like…riding, reading and the scent of trees at the beginning of spring, and tea, yes, I liked tea. What is my name? I ask my reflection…? nothing came, not one bloody clue.

How is it that I can remember all those things but not my name or where I came from? I massaged my temples. This is frustrating, feeling as if I had a wet blanket over my brain.

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