Fiumenze Nights Redux - Session Three: Davide and Ercole

Stripped of their badges, Chiara, Donatella, Heidini, Ilaria and Lia retrieved Davide from the roof where they had hidden him on the roof of the taverna. What were they to do now? They decided that they could not abandon their investigation, nor could they abandon their new friend. They had two leads remaining: Bartolomeo's mistress Angela, whose cameo they possessed from Bartolomeo's rooms, and his apprentice Giulia. They decided to go to the marketplace and see if they could find out anything about Angela.

On the way to the market, the group ran into a gang of six men with sledgehammers. They were workers from the Basilica, led by the foreman Fabrizio, and they had been riled up by Fra Gottifredo to find Davide and destroy him. After failing to negotiate with them, the group made a distraction and fled. Heidini used some of the fairy tricks that gnomes still possess to help throw off their pursuers, and after an hour or so they had left the angry mob behind.

The group was lucky at the market: it took no time at all until someone recognised the cameo as Angela Blanco, wife of Baptisto the wool merchant. He was able to give them Baptisto's address. It was mid-afternoon by the time that they arrived there. They tried to bluff their way in through the front door, but the porter refused them, so Ilaria picked the lock at the back of the house and Heidini snuck in. She soon found herself in the kitchen, where she was almost discovered by the cook and the cook's cat. She managed to make her way to the central courtyard, where Angela was reading a book in the shade while her maidservant dozed at her feet. Heidini told her about Bartolomeo's death, and she told the gnome what she knew: Bartolomeo had used some of her jewelry to buy back a statue of the legendary hero Ercole. She also knew that Bartolomeo's apprentice, Giulia, often frequented the taverna 'il Cigno' in the Sopraponte quartiere, over the other side of the river: Angela's maidservant would meet Giulia there to arrange trysts between their masters. As Heidini left, Angela's stoic facade broke and she wept on the shoulder of her maidservant.

The six made their way across the bridges to Sopraponte. They stopped off at their lodgings to grab their belongings; Lia retrieved her immense two-handed sword, which she stuffed into a leather sack to avoid drawing too much attention. On the way, they saw the hammer-wielding mob still searching for them, and kept out of their way. As they got nearer to the Cigno, they saw people running, screaming. Once they reached it, they could see that the taverna had been wrecked, with dead bodies lying everywhere, and one massive silhouette sitting at a table inside - Ercole, the second living statue. Ilaria left to find Fabrizio and lead them to the taverna as backup, while the others went in to try talking to Ercole and buy time for Ilaria to return.

Ercole was a massive, bearded male statue. He had a bowl of fish risotto in front of him and was holding a glass of wine. “I just wanted food and drink. Like a human would. Like a person. They screamed. Some attacked me. I… defended myself. Then I made the publican give me food and drink. Apparently I can eat, but I cannot taste. So I killed the publican. I feel hunger or thirst. I do not want to mate, like so many of you do. So am I really alive?” Ercole told them everything that had happened. He had been created by Bartolomeo, but the artist was passed out drunk and Bartolomeo was confused by the rush of memories and emotions. He left to find Michele, who he instinctively hated, and lured him to the top of the Basilica dome to talk. Michele had flown into a rage when he realised that Bartolomeo had made a living statue before him, and attacked Ercole. During the struggle, Michele fell to his death. He was then attacked by Donatella and the others as he attempted to flee the church. He returned to Bartolomeo, who attacked him with a hammer and chisel: Ercole killed him too. Now he was convinced that he was an inherently bad person and an irredeemable killer, and was ready to fight the others. They, however, felt sorry for Ercole and tried to convince him that he was a person with free will and a future with Davide in front of him. They acknowledged that he had been poorly treated by everyone he had met in his short life, but insisted that not everyone was like that. Their heartfelt arguments swayed Ercole, who agreed to go with them.

At that moment, Ilaria returned with Fabrizio's mob. Chaos broke out as the labourers charged into the ruined taverna. Ercole roared in betrayal and charged, and Davide flung himself at the bigger, stronger living statue. They began to wrestle. The former sbirri decided that they had to protect Davide and Ercole. Donatella rushed towards the men with sledgehammers and overturned a table to block them, and Lia drew her two-handed sword from the leather bag and rushed forward to the barricade as well. Chiara revealed why she had been acting unusually for the last week: she had discovered an instinctive ability to manipulate the aether and perform magic. She opened herself to the aether, and power rushed into her uncontrollably. The first labourer melted as acid dissolved him from within, and a heartbeat later the second burst into uncontrollable flames. Ilaria, regretting her choices, viciously attacked one of the men from behind, using her claws to tear up his leg. Donatella used her brass knuckles to punch another in the face, stunning him, and Lia's two-handed sword cut the head off a sledgehammer aimed at her. All the while, magical energy continued to burst in wave after wave from Chiara. Within its heart, the unfortunate woman's features began to distort and warp and become bestial. Flames spread and swept around the shop. Fabrizio and his remaining companions fled in terror as the building began to buckle and groan from arcane stress. Ercole flung off Davide, and the former sbirri tried one more time to convince him that they meant him no harm. They managed to get through to the murderous statue, who agreed to stop fighting. They fled the building, leaving Chiara inside at the heart of the magical storm. The building imploded in upon itself behind them, crushing her. When the devastation ended, however, they found Chiara, bewildered, standing in the middle of the wreckage.

As the seven were contemplating what to do next - perhaps it was time to flee the city - an urchin approached them bearing a letter from Antonia Ficino. This really did make them think about immediately fleeing Fiumenze, but wiser heads prevailed. Antonia seemed to know too much for them to be able to escape - the best thing to do would be to meet her again. They went again to the small office, where Antonia received them and asked them to tell her about their investigations. Ilaria and the others explained how Ercole was only a killer through circumstance and the hostility that he had encountered - with time, he could become a productive member of society, and Antonia agreed. She also felt that the investigation had been hampered by the inherent weakness of the sbirri. She declared that the sbirri were disbanded, and that a new, more professional City Watch would be established, with the seven of them as its first members, and Antonia as its overseer. They all gladly agreed, and Davide and Ercole stated their intention to pool their income so that they could afford to create more living statues like themselves.

Image: Detail from 'Hercules and Cacus.' Baccio Bandinelli, 1534

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