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All the Plagues of Hell: Chapter Twenty Two

       Last updated: Sunday, November 18, 2018 16:01 EST



The Eastern Mediterranean; Venice

    The disadvantage, Benito Valdosta found, of having had the tritons advising the fleet on winter weather on their outbound trip, was that he had become accustomed to it. There had been no warning of the storm coming down the Adriatic that had struck them a day out of Cerigo, driving them southwest. There was little they could do but to ship oars and run before it, and hope it blew itself out before it left them shipwrecked on the coast of Africa.

    “According to Grandfather’s maps, the good thing about this is there isn’t a lot of land to hit,” said Benito. “The bad thing about it is there isn’t anything to shelter behind, either.” Benito was standing on the heaving deck with Manfred. Neither of them suffered from sea-sickness, and the smell below-decks was enough to make anyone think about being sick, even, as Manfred said, without drinking any wine.

    Manfred shrugged. “It might get warmer if we reach Africa. There’s a smell of snow on this wind, as well as the bite of it. It is spring, but I shouldn’t wonder if Erik is stuck in a felt tent somewhere in the Balkans. Not that he’ll be complaining with the company he has, but it’ll hold him up as much as it does us.

    “I want to get home. Home to a quiet life with my wife and baby,” Benito complained.

    Manfred laughed. “Now, you are doomed. There’ll be at least another war by the time you get home, if not two.”



    Marco Valdosta had largely despaired of finding out what sort of snake it had been. He’d had some success in getting a swallowing reaction from the young woman, but that still meant she was being fed, painstakingly slowly, a small spoonful of broth at a time. It was a good thing she’d been well-covered and healthy or she’d have starved by now.

    He had also largely despaired of hearing from Francisco Turner. The nyx Rhene had not returned to the salty waters of the Lagoon. He had no messages, but the doge’s agents had brought word that war had begun, with soldiers from Parma and Lombardy ravaging the northern Milanese countryside. And now, it seemed, the Scaligers were also about to attack Milan in the east. Probably his friend was away on military duties–but that did not make Marco worry less, or prevent him from wondering why he had not heard anything. He decided that the chief role of being a father-to-be was to increase the amount of worrying he did, a hundred-fold.

    A summons to see the doge, privately, did not ease matters. Petro Dorma received Marco in one of the small chambers in the Doge’s palace that he used for small meetings he wished to keep very private. He was already seated when Marco entered and he gestured at a chair nearby.

    “Please, have a seat.” Once Marco had done so, Dorma continued: “I have had a troubling message from Mainz, sent by their fastest courier. And as you have… um, magical connections with La Serenissima, I think you need to know. A very powerful and very unpleasant magician has now arrived in our back yard–a man who was Jagiellon’s confidante and worked for a time with Elizabeth Bartholdy. He was also, the Imperials inform me, Emeric of Hungary’s mage when he invaded the territory of the Golden Horde. He is thought to be in Milan, suspected of being in alliance with Carlo Sforza. They are attempting to locate him there.”

    “Do they know what he’s planning?” asked Marco.

    The doge shook his head. “Not that they informed me of. He’s a nasty piece of work, though. I suspect Sforza may end up being used and devoured by the fellow. They’ve asked for our help in neutralizing him, or at least, locating him. They ask for my support in dealing with Carlo Sforza. They have a team of Knights of the Holy Trinity, monitoring his magical works. It appears serious, whatever it is. Sforza does have a problem with the sheer number of enemies he has, but I cannot feel that adding the Holy Roman Empire to them is going to be worth having this fellow. My spies will be advised, and I will let you know, just as soon as I know any more.”

    And with that, Marco had to be content. It was not information he could share–but it was shared with him, by back channels, by old Isaac the goldsmith in the Campo ghetto.

    “There’s an evil and powerful new magician arrived in Milan, M’lord Marco,” he whispered in a very harsh croak, after Marco arrived at his shop. “Out of Lithuania. And anything from there means bad, bad, bad.”

    “But… didn’t some of your family come from there?” asked Marco.

    “Yes. That’s why we left. Because of his kind.”

    He would not say how he’d heard about it. But something he did let slip was that the news was not from Milan, but from a source in Venice. “Phillipo Maria purged almost all the Streghira in his duchy. We don’t hear much from there. There is no one in Milan, um, right now.”

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