February 2nd, 1241
Chapel of the Aiello estate
If the truth were told, his son’s face, in adulthood, had never been very handsome; the slightly-sunken cheeks, left bare by the fashionable beard, amplified the large nose, and the neatly plucked eyebrows only drew attention to the bags under the eyes. In repose it was even worse; with all the distracting charm gone, and no enlivening expression to make you forget about the mere body, all the flaws came to the fore. But Abramo did not see the face of the man of not quite forty; for he remembered the toddler who had woken in the night and been afraid of the dark, and had been comforted by his father’s embrace. That toddler’s face had been smooth and chubby, and beautiful with all the promise of the future; and Abramo clenched his jaw against tears.
“Do you think it’s enough, now, Abramo?” His wife’s voice came smooth and bitter from behind him, and he turned gratefully away from where his son lay in state; better to think of something else, even if it was a quarrel.
“Enough? Enough of what?”
“Enough of service to your ambition. The sacrifice of a firstborn son is powerful magic; why, the Name Himself relented, and did not require it of your namesake. But your Isaac lies dead for the sake of your god.”
Abramo flinched; the charge was unjust, but it struck at a raw nerve. Could he have acted differently, and if he had, could he have saved Isacco? It wasn’t the custom, for two Doges in a row to come from one family; if he had not so obviously intended to break that longstanding rule, would his son be alive?
“Not by my hand!” he almost shouted. “I didn’t know – I – if I’d known, I would have, would have…”
“Would you, indeed? If the Dandolo had made a threat beforehand, you would have ceased to campaign for Isacco’s election? You would have backed down, and let another family take the Dogeship for a dozen years?”
Abramo had no answer; for in truth, he would have done no such thing. He would have increased his precautions, doubled the guards on Isacco – but if once he let it be known that a mere threat to kill his son would make him back off, how could he do anything whatever? But in the face of death, that cold calculation seemed worthless.
“The Dandolo are not the Name,” he said instead.
“No,” Teresa agreed, too readily. “But if you had known, not that the Dandolo would try to get with daggers what their gold and ancestors couldn’t win, but that your ambition required the sacrifice of your firstborn – what then, Abramo? Would you have given it up?”
Abramo looked down, not from guilt, but so she wouldn’t see the tears in his eyes; after twenty years of marriage, she really thought so ill of him? But no – it was rage and grief that spoke.
“Yes, Teresa, I would have,” he said. “You cannot trade your heart for your heart’s desire.”
“You have other sons, have you not? An heir and a spare, that’s the saying, isn’t it?”
“Am I a statue, with a stone heart, to treat my own flesh and blood thus? My son, Teresa! Not a counter in some game, expendable at need! And besides, Pietro…” He stopped, suddenly appalled at his own honesty; but there it was. The name “Pietro” came from some ancient word for “rock”, he recalled; and began to wonder at his own success in naming his sons. Isaac, eldest son of Abraham, dead before his father; Pietro, the rock, slower than the average turtle. It was a terrible thing for a father to think, but if he’d been given a choice of sons to sacrifice – then Isacco would still live, and he would not even have thought very long about the decision.
Teresa’s shoulders slumped, and the rage went out of her body; without it she looked grey and old. “Yes. I’m sorry, Abramo; I should not have accused you thus. I wanted – it was good to be angry. Better than -” she gestured at their son’s corpse, and Abramo nodded.
“I understand.” They stood in silence for a while.
“You were right to be angry,” Abramo said at length. “It’s said that Abraham was angry at the Name, in his heart; but he obeyed. But the Dandolo are not the Name; we needn’t obey them.” As he spoke, he felt a small spark of righteous anger in himself, lifting the grey depression ever so slightly.
“That’s true,” Teresa said, and he could see the same spark in her eyes, the slight lift in her shoulders as steel returned to her spine. Better to be angry than to grieve. “There were vendettas fought in this city, once; they stopped, the men of good family, because too much blood was spilled.”
“We should remind them.” Abramo walked to the door of the chapel, leaving the coffin behind, and looked out at the city. He felt better, now that there was something to do.
And that’s how I ended up assassinating seven rival patricians and executing an eighth. Nothing to do with making the election a few hundred ducats cheaper, no sir! (And even if it were, we’d be speaking of my ducats, not some kind of expendable game counters. What, is my heart made of stone?) Please note that I nobly resisted the temptation of the obvious “half-a-kilo of meat” call-out, at least in-character. I may be saving it for later, admittedly.
This week’s session was somewhat unsuccessful for me. I won the Crusade for Tunis, then died; my heir Pietro, unfortunately, is pretty accurately described above. I was almost immediately faced with a faction rebellion that included my brother, whom I’d just made Duke of Tunis; thank you, brother mine. After putting that down I took Korto, in Zeta, mainly so the troops could stretch their legs a bit and get some fresh fruit on the way home; then I helped Blayne grab another Greek province. Finally we attacked Rum for Cibyrrhaeot; that turned out to be a mistake. Through a combination of bad scouting, an unexpected 9000-strong Muslim stack, and miscommunication between allies, I lost the army I sent to Anatolia; Baron’s and Blayne’s got away, but weren’t strong enough to land again in the face of such opposition. I’m currently noodling about taking Veglia, while arranging allied troops for a renewed assault on Rum; losing the war would cost 1700 ducats, so it’s worth hiring quite a few mercenaries to avoid that. It’s just rather unfortunate that I also need my ducats for the next election.
Venice and environs, 1265. Tunis and Kotor outlined in red. Note the allied army besieging Cilicia – AI Sicily is currently making the strongest contribution to the cause of the Cross. AI Sicily is going to be very surprised when our current alliance runs out.