Catalyst [Part 12]

By M. Greene -
published August 26, 2017

Trouble comes in twos…

Venice, Serene Republic of Venice: 1575.

“Oh, he’s dead, alright - I skewered him to his own mattress.” Fabio reported with relish. “Straight through his flabby, rotten heart…”

Selim sighed. “And then, to round off the evening’s festivities, you fucked your own sister…”

Livia’s eyes blazed defensively. “At least, unlike you and your friends, he knows to put his dick in the right hole…”

“Most of the time, anyway…” Fabio said, with a wry smile.

Selim felt like slapping Livia. “Why, you cheeky little bitch…”

Nazir stepped between Selim and the twins, his arms raised. “Enough! There is no point to these recriminations; they are a needless waste of energy. What’s done is done and cannot be undone. We just have to accept that Fabio and Livia are a part of us now and get on with the rest of our lives.

Lying on the huge four-poster bed, Jamal listened to them all squabbling and blushed. He felt responsible for this mess. If he had not absorbed Fabio into their stone brotherhood, the lad could not have done the same to his twin sister. He shook his head. In just a few fateful hours they had increased from a threesome to a quintet. Things were getting out of control and it was all his fault… “I’m sorry I absorbed the boy…” he began, his voice still very weak. “I couldn’t help myself…”

“Do not blame yourself, my love,” Selim said. “You did not ask to be attacked and what happened was an instinctive reaction in the face of imminent death.” He glared at Fabio. “You have caused such untold damage tonight!”

Fabio glared back. “I assassinated the cardinal for you, didn’t I?” he said, petulantly. “You should be thanking me, not cursing me.”

“Stop this, all of you! I need to concentrate!” Nazir shouted. He began pacing up and down Selim and Jamal’s bed chamber, thinking aloud. “Our first problem is that we need to get my money and possessions back from the ship. Selim, you said that you would do that for me…”

Selim nodded. “I will pay a visit to the docks this morning.”

“Thank you, my friend,” Nazir continued. “I will draw up some kind of document making you my executor and then sign it. They will not believe that I could have disappeared from the ship in the middle of the Adriatic and survived. It is better that they continue to think that I jumped overboard and drowned.” He stopped pacing for a moment and raised two fingers. “Our second problem is that we need to get to London, but we cannot leave yet due to Jamal’s injuries. He will not be fit to travel for at least a month. It is already early September. By the time we can begin our journey it will be October and getting on towards winter. This rules out crossing to France via the Alps as the passes will very likely be blocked with snow. It also means that to travel by ship from here or Genoa is far too risky due to the danger of storms as well as the usual problem of pirates. I therefore suggest that we head to Genoa, then continue along the coast for a while before turning north through central France to Paris. After that it is not far to Calais and then England.”

“It will be good to see my homeland once more,” Jamal said, wistfully. “I wonder if my old mother is still alive in Plymouth…”

“I agree to what you suggest, Nazir,” Selim said. “Even your planned route is not without risk, but long-distance travel is always dangerous. It is the lesser of three evils.”

“Very well then…” Nazir turned to the twins. “Given that we will have to stay in this building for a few more weeks, our final problem is that of our two new friends here…”

“How dare you refer to us as a problem!” Livia flared.

Selim rolled his eyes impatiently. “Of course you’re a problem. As soon as they find the cardinal’s body and you both missing, they’ll immediately suspect you of his murder. They will scour the city looking for you. They will search everywhere, including even this place. It’s not as if Abramo Adamoli was someone ordinary; he was the Pope’s personal representative to the Doge and a Prince of the Church. They will take Venice apart until you’re found.”

“Precisely,” Nazir said. “As soon as we are safely out of the Republic and on our way to Genoa everything will be fine, but until then, you will both have to be absorbed and dwell within us.” He shrugged. “There is simply no other way.”

Fabio shook his head. “We’re not being absorbed and we’re not going to Genoa, or Paris, or London. We want to go back home to Rome.”

“Impossible!” Selim snapped. “Now that you are part of our ‘family’ you cannot be separated from us for any length of time. In time you will learn this, but for now you must take our word for it.”

Livia began moving towards the door. “You have no authority over us and you cannot force us to stay with you. Come, brother, it is time we were leaving…”

Nazir stepped in front of the twins and blocked their way out of the room. In a fraction of a second, his skin turned from dark brown to silver. He reached out and touched each of them simultaneously. Their bodies instantly liquefied and were absorbed by his. A moment later, Nazir resumed his normal appearance and bent down to retrieve his robe and sandals. “It’s such a nuisance that one cannot remain dressed when one does this.” He looked down at the other two small heaps of clothes lying on the marble tiles. “I suppose we had better take care of those for them; they will need them back, eventually…”

Selim smiled. “It suddenly just became a lot more peaceful in here,” he remarked.

“Not inside my head it isn’t,” Nazir said morosely. “You should hear the language they’re using!” He sighed and shook his head sadly. “I just know that they’re going to keep me awake for days…”

Selim laughed. “Are you sure you can control both of them and prevent them taking over or separating from you?”

“Oh yes,” Nazir said. “I’m very sure. I was the first to touch the Angelical Stone, remember. For some reason that means I’m most definitely in charge…”

Selim knelt down and picked up Fabio’s vicious looking dagger from where it lay on top of the youth’s empty doublet. He examined the razor-sharp blade and shuddered. This weapon almost cost Jamal his life… “Soon it will be time for the pre-dawn prayer and the household will begin to stir,” he said. “We will tell Osman that you are staying here with us until we depart for London. He won’t mind. In fact, he will happy to accommodate you here; he’s a frightful old hypochondriac and will love having an apothecary on call day and night…”

Nazir’s shoulders sagged slightly. “Oh wonderful… That’s just great…”

Although they both raged and screamed inside Nazir for the first few days, eventually Fabio and Livia calmed down and began to accept their unusual situation. Whilst the total lack of control was very alarming and frustrating at first and it felt most peculiar to experience life through the senses of another, there were also significant compensations. The level of intimacy with each other that they now had was on a completely higher plane to even the commonality they had shared as twins. To be able to read each other’s thoughts and know for certain the depth of love that they mutually felt was incredibly positive and uplifting. They came to know Nazir too and appreciated his undoubted kindness, maturity, wisdom and intelligence. Livia, in particular, was thrilled by the depth of learning he possessed regarding herbalism and alchemy, which augmented her own limited medical knowledge. She liked to think that she had also taught him something about poisons, but the debt here was definitely on her side. Conversely, she enlightened both her companions about what living as a female was like and from them she gained an understanding of what being a man entailed. To her great surprise, maleness, a state she had secretly envied since puberty, involved a great deal more insecurity than she had previously imagined…

Every few days or so, Nazir would merge with Selim and Jamal, which meant that the twins began to understand them too. Fabio and Jamal swapped knowledge of armed and unarmed combat. The twins’ Italian, although perhaps not the highest form of that language, was added to their common pool of tongues, along with Arabic, Turkish and English. To be able to see the fabled city of Constantinople through the imaginations of their companions thrilled both Livia and Fabio. It was as though they had all experienced each other’s lives as well as their hopes and fears. It was not really possible for the twins to continue hating the three older men after that…

To Nazir’s great relief, Selim was able to see to it that all his effects were safely retrieved from the ship. Although his language was often rather basic, the captain was an honest man, and seemed genuinely sorry that his African passenger had ended his own life in such a terribly tragic way.

Once the small chest of Venetian ducats was securely back at the embassy, Nazir visited the branch of the Fugger bank in Venice and handed the entire thing over in return for promissory notes which were so much lighter and easier to transport. With these and the Medici ones he already had, they would face no financial problems on their journey.

Eventually, towards the end of October, Jamal’s strength returned and his wounds were judged by Nazir to have healed sufficiently well for them to be able to travel to Genoa. While they all knew that the Italian leg of their journey was likely to be relatively safe, they were all slightly apprehensive about what might happen to them once they entered the Kingdom of France…

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