I awaken from the recollections of my youth when the sun is low and paints the sky red. I feel calm yet saddened. It is strange that all the memories that came to me have these two qualities. They are often calm, that is predominant in them; and if they are not, they become so. They are soundless apparitions that speak to me, with looks and gestures, without a word.
The merchant has moved his counter to a charming piazza where a fair is taking place. The stalls around me trade in high-value goods, fresh produce and necessities. Although the fair's primary purpose is trade, it includes some elements of entertainment, such as dance, music and tournaments. The hour is late, yet still, the music and activities have not stilled. It is truly a cheerful scene. Citizens strutting and beaming, making their way through the crowd of porters, carriers and hawkers, sellers of sausages and pastries, vendors of hats and ribbons. Horses and carriages clatter past the stals.
Then a hand closes around me, a finger rakes my crumbled edge. Soft hands, long fingers, and dark eyes survey my golden skin.
"Very nice, my lady, you have good taste," the merchant says.
"This? It's painted..."
"Don't let that deceive you, ma'am! It is truly one of a kind, it shall protect you throughout life!"
The woman raises an elegant eyebrow. A slight smirk tugs at her lips and she turns her head, looking back at the guards accompanying her, "do I look like I need protection?"
The merchant coughs and rearranges his tunic, stepping over on a new tactic. "It will ensure sons! You and your husband will soon be blessed with a child!"
"Bold of you to assume I'm married."
"So you claim this piece is a fertiliser? Should I take it with me to bed then? Maybe put it between my legs?"
Even the merchant - who I expect to be used to such coarse implications - seems visibly shocked by the comment, while the guards further down are laughing wholeheartedly. They appear to be enjoying themselves without any indiscretions, suggesting that this must be a regular occurrence for them.
"It brings luck!" The merchant tries once more, "and it has an interesting background. I won it in a game of dice but before that-"
"So let me get this clear, the one who was supposed to be extra lucky thanks to this thing, lost the game?"
"-it was part of a great Egyptian treasure!"
"No it wasn't," she says.
"No. It wasn't," he says.
"For such a rarity? About-"
The woman crosses her arms and regards him viciously.
"A few coppers," the merchant says, rather disheartened.
Hence my merchant sells me to Christine of Lorainne, travelling towards Florence in order to marry.
I am pleasantly surprised by my new companion, she can call herself a woman with the wit of a fox. I enjoy her company more than I ever did with Basir the romantic, the hopeful believers from the heathen temple, my band of soldiers, or the merchant. At the age of twenty-four, she is quite old to be without a husband, yet I assume I can only blame that on the woman' habit to gull the men courting her and her displeasure of being married off.
She's a fierce woman, I can see how that might have discouraged earlier suitors.
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Her husband-to-be, Ferdinando I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, surely never heard rumour of her defiant nature. Seeking a marriage that would preserve his political independence, Ferdinando has chosen the favourite granddaughter of Catherine de' Medici, Queen of France. I listen intently, as this is the first occasion I have had to truly deepen my knowledge of politics and power in this incomprehensible century.
"They seek to re-align the Medici with France, instead of Spain," the princess of Lorainne thinks aloud, staring out of the window of her coach, bored out of her mind.
'A wise move,' I say as the scenery changes from fields, to hills, to the gate of San Niccolò.
Florence, what can I tell you about this city, I wonder? It is nominally part of the Holy Roman Empire, prospering through extensive trade with foreign countries. This, in turn, provides a platform for the demographic growth of the city, which is mirrored trough the rate of construction of churches and palazzi. Though the prosperity was shattered when my grandfather invaded the Italian peninsula. As a result, the margraves of Tuscany re-acquired Florence and its townlands.
Upon the death of my father, they re-asserted their independence. What was I to do about it? I had been a one-year-old infant the day my father left the world.
The city did flourish, I realise as I travel through the streets as part of the entourage of Christina, though despite all of the incentives for economic growth and prosperity, the population of Florence seems far smaller in comparison to cities as Rome, Venice, Naples or my dear Palermo.
Christina is unambiguous to this whole ordeal - though we share a moment of astonishment when we pass the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore - and her displeasure of being married off doesn't falter.
Arriving at the Palazzo Pitti, a month-long sequence of public and courtly pageantry begins with Christina's triumphal entry into the palace. Followed by a series of banquets; performances in the Medici theatre in the Uffizi; an allegorical-chivalric parade, a tournament, and a mock naval battle at the Pitti Palace; a football game, animal baiting, and street masquerades.
I see Christine bite through the festivities as the conscientious woman she is, but her rebellious side wins it over duty awareness on her wedding night.
I am laying in between her novelties and ornaments on her dressing table, while she sits before the adorned mirror. As far as I am concerned, I immediately feel at ease in the court halls full of mirrors and fountains. A handmaiden lets Christine' blond tresses loose from the tightly woven braid while making small comments of congratulations on her wedding to the duke. Christine arches her head away from the fiddling hand of the maid and ushers her to leave as the second maid finishes making the bed, and excuses herself.
I see her stroke her sharp cheeks, sighing as if she were in a melodramatic play. We wait for the Grand Duke of Tuscany to arrive, together, and in silence.
Once the parades himself through the door, inebriated and stinking, a rather curious display is put in motion. The scene before me is to be called pathetic if it wasn't so comical. In the sense that it is far from the amorous endeavours one might expect of a wedded couple; a middle-aged man whining in front of his newly wedded wife. She remains apathetic to his pleas as she beckons him to leave her. The intoxicated man can do nothing but mumble.
Marriage, you curious thing.
How you pained me in the past, yet how playful and jocose you now appear to me. It almost seems so childish. But I mustn't forget; you are like children. Enamoured with heroism and fantasising about the love of which they only heard from in poetry and novels. So, tell me of your love stories and marriages. Tell me of your angels and deities and ghost stories. How endearing they are. I may observe and remain apathetic but I shall listen.
It's what I do these years.
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