Adam Schell

The First Missing Chapter

Pope Leon the XI, Part I

My eyes! Why do my eyes still bleed? Nicoli, Nicoli, where are you? I know you are right outside my door. You idiot! Get in here this instant.

–Yes, your Holiness.

You horrible incompetent. You ingrate. You owe everything to me! How could you have let this happen to me? I have been poisoned. I am dead. Surely, I am dead.

–Your Holiness, please, do not so upset yourself. You are not dead.

Look at me, you idiot. Does not blood ooze from my eyes, from my nose? I am like a stuck pig. You have let them poison me.

–Your Holiness, please, calm down. No one has poisoned you.

Do not patronize me, you useless foot-licker, I am Pope Leon the Eleventh, Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Christ, God’s leader of Christendom!

–Yes, yes, and a great and mighty Pope you are.

Then why have you let me be killed before your very eyes? By my own cousin, you have let me be killed. Like Saint Peter before me, I am killed!

–Your Holiness, please, I assure you, neither the Duke nor any of the French poisoned you.

Yet I lie here bleeding?

–Your Holiness, the French would rather see you humiliated than dead, and your cousin the Duke, has not the stomach for such malice.

Then why do I bleed, Nicoli? Why for three days do I run blood from my eyes and nose?

–A trickle, your Holiness, merely but a few drops.

A trickle! I run blood like a slaughtered lamb.

–Of course, your Holiness. But it is only your nerves that poison you. You must rest. You need sleep. You have worked yourself into a frenzy.

Do not patronize your Pontiff. I have never seen things more clearly. A horrendous poison eats away at me.

–Yes, your Holiness, of course, a horrendous poison. But surely, you should know as well as any, that had those documents been laced with arsenic or some other toxicant, you would not have lived thirty hours, much less three days.

Shut up, Nicoli! Why do you hate me so?

–Your Holiness?

It is my cousin’s doing, that horrible inbred; that milk-livered whoremonger. He makes a mockery of our Church! He has forced my hand to make Italy a haven for the Godless. He is the one who has brought this upon me.

–Your Holiness, it was the French, you give him too much credit.

How dare you contradict the Bishop of Rome? He has always hated me and now he craves my death.

–Your Holiness, please, he is a coward, he lives in fear of you.

You old fool! Are you too blind to see? He is the devil! He mocks me, he torments me. He knows of all my secrets. His living is a poison to me.

–Your Holiness, please, get up. It is not becoming for the Pope to be brought to his knees by any other than God.

How dare you speak to me of God. He knows of it! He knows of it, Nicoli, and of where it hides, I am certain.

–Maybe so, your Holiness, but he has not the gumption nor gall to make public such slander. And seemingly, after all these years, “it” is either dead or wants nothing to do with you.

Dear God! My child is dead?

–No…

How did she die, Nicoli, how?

–No, no, your Holiness. I meant only that after so many years…

So she lives?

–I cannot say, your Holiness.

Oh, dear God! My child is dead.

–Your Holiness, please.

It is all his doing. He poisoned my own child against me. He and those bedeviled puppets!

–Your Holiness, please, do not so trouble yourself. Cosimo is but a pittance.

You heretic! How dare you speak his name?

–Your Holiness, you mustn’t concern yourself so.

How dare you tell the Vicar of Christ what he is to concern himself with. He is a scourge, a torment, a devil, a pox upon my soul.

–Very well, your Holiness, indeed, the lowest of the low.

Yes, and he must be dealt with.

–Of course, your Holiness, he must be dealt with.

You must help me, Nicoli. You must.

–Of course, your Holiness. I am as I have always been, your loyal servant. Now, please, get up off the floor.

Yes, yes, Nicoli, you have always been good to me. You love your Pope as you love your Christ.

–Indeed, your Holiness.

Then we will deal with this devil, Nicoli?

–Yes, your Holiness.

We will deal the devil his due.

–Of course, your Holiness.

What happened to our contact at Un Consiglio di Dieci1.

–Your Holiness, the Council of Ten?

Do not question me, you idiot. What happened to him?

–Dare I say, it was so long ago, over twenty years.

Why do you evade my question?

–Of course, your Holiness, I believe he is dead.

Then what of his underling?

–You mean his nephew, your Holiness?

Do not tell me what I mean. What of him?

–Gone too, after killing his uncle, I was told.

Than I shall do it myself.

–Your Holiness, please, such talk, it is not becoming of the Pope.

Do not dare to tell the Pope what is becoming of him! Who better than the Pope to deal with this anti-Christ, this abomination to God?

–No one but you, of course, your Holiness, but perhaps you should rest for the night. You do remember what happened last time?

How dare you speak such a heresy! She was a whore, a harlot, an Ebreo witch.

–Of course, your Holiness, of course. Nevertheless, the poison was not meant for her.

You dare accuse the Holy Pope? It was a trick of that devil, I tell you: to fool his courtesan into tasting his food for him. Does it not prove my point, Nicoli, what a son-of-Satan he is?

–Of course, your Holiness, how foolish of me. But if your mind is so set then let us hire the proper tool for the job.

Who could be more proper for any job than the Pope?

–Of course, your Holiness, no one more proper than you. Nevertheless, why trouble yourself with such a trifle? Let me contact the proper source and see that it is done.

You are a coward, too! It will be the hand of Christ that will smite this Satan and none other.

–Your Holiness?

Good God, why do you hate me so?

–Please, your Holiness, I beg of you.

It will be the hand of Christ that will smite this Satan and none other.

–Very well, your Holiness, very well.

Then off to the Library.

–The Library?

Dear God! Must I say everything twice? Go and fetch me the book.

–Which book does his Holiness request?

By heaven, are you so dense? The Neopoliani Magioe Naturalis.2

–But Your Holiness, it is a forbidden book.

Stop your pathetic dithering. Nothing is forbidden to the Pope. Now go and fetch it for me so I may slay this serpent once and for all.

1 The Council of Ten; a secret guild of alchemists and poisoners who ran schools in Venice and Rome that taught the art of poison making and assassination and were readily available for hire.

2 The Poisoners Handbook; a text written in the 15h century which provided detailed instructions and recipes for the making and delivering of poisons for the explicit use of homicide, as well as antidotes to those very poisons. It was banned by the Holy Roman Church and most governments of Europe.

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