2. 1 - Ahlaam to Leonardo da Vinci
The sun shone as you trek up the path to Monteriggioni. Finding your way up a hill, you gaze at the magnificent citadel and village of the mercenary state. You smile to yourself, never before thinking that you would look upon such an amazing sight. But you move along quickly, knowing that you are here to do one thing and one thing only.
You climb down the steady slope of the hill and make your way towards the gates, waving yourself passed the guards as a guest to all the Assassins time and history could offer - past and present. You nod greetings to familiar and unfamiliar faces alike - looking for your benefactor and the man you so desperately sought to question. You find said benefactor sitting cross-legged by a burbling stone fountain, playing Angry Birds on her phone so intently that she didn't bother to sweep her dark hair out of her face.
“Rogue,” you say, tentatively wondering if there was even a point.
“Mm?” your benefactor replies, not looking up immediately but pausing her game and pushing back her spectacles and then sighing.
She fixes the tricorn hat sitting on her head, “If this is about Desmond and pot-cookies again-” Rogue starts, but then her face brightens when she sees you and she beams, “Ahlaam! Finally made it.”
“Yes, well,” you say hesitantly, “I'm not exactly sold on your awkward band of cut-throats, but I do wish to see-”
“Leo,” Rogue nods, standing up and putting an arm around your shoulders. She leads you away from the stone fountain and to a cluster of trees, “He's in here somewhere. Saw him with a few bird cages.”
“Bird cages?” you ask, finding the information rather peculiar.
Rogue shrugs, “It's a hobby of his. Of course, though, Leo's not exactly short on them.”
“Ah, right. The renaissance man and all.”
“He loves it when he's called that. Never say it in front of him.”
“Just trust me. Don't say it.”
Rogues leads you to a large oak tree, and sitting at the foot of it is the most beautiful man you have ever set eyes on. His grace and affinity is immeasurable, as he opens each bird cage and sets each creature free - smiling as they flutter away from his grasp. His hair is between the colours of golden brown and blond - his short beard decidedly darker - and he wears a green jerkin with loose breeches and white stockings that reach his knees. He notices that he has company and smiles at you warmly.
“Rogue?” he says, his voice emerging with a pleasant lilt, “Would you introduce me to your friend?”
“This is Ahlaam,” Rogue says, prodding the birds with her forefinger, “She's here to ask you something.”
“By all means,” Leonardo da Vinci exclaims, delighted. He turns to you, “What would you like to ask?”
You blush, butterflies wreaking havoc in the pit of your stomach. This is possibly the most intelligent man to ever exist. How do you just talk to a man like that?
“Well, um, Messer da Vinci... I... I wanted to ask...” you gulp hesitantly, your voice trailing away into silence.
Leonardo appears amused by your nervousness, “Please. Call me Leo.”
“Of course. Leo,” you say, trying out the affection, feeling elated that Leonardo would suggest it.
“I wanted to ask: How do you feel about realism art?”
For a moment, Leonardo seems to consider the answer he would give - it would be a great answer indeed - and just as he was about to deliver it-
“What's realism art?” Rogue interrupts, taking out her phone.
You roll your eyes and begin, “It's-”
Rogue raises a finger, punching keys with one hand, “I'm asking Google.”
“I hate it when you do that,” you mutter.
Leonardo shook his head, leaning a hand against on knee and mumbles, “Don't we all,” he scoffs tunefully and says, “To answer your question, though - Ahlaam, was it? Lovely name. You must see Altair or Yusuf after this - I'm not much of an art-as-a-hobby person. I studied art as a young man, yes, but I mostly painted when I was commissioned to - most of these commissions being of a religious nature and so a lot of my remaining works are frescoes: like the Last Supper, for instance - and I rarely finished my paintings anyway.”
You raise a brow, “Oh? Why?”
Leonardo shrugs, “I suffer from chronic procrastination.”
Rogue looks up and laughs, “That just means you never get around to finishing things.”
“It's a disability,” Leonardo insists irritably.
“It's an excuse,” Rogue counters, “but it says here,” she raises her phone, “that realism is an art that rejects flamboyance and idealism - portraying a thing as it is, as it should be: even leaving in any ugliness that might be incorporated. The movement initially started as a way to depict the working class, but during the Victorian times, it was countered by the Romantic Movement (which romanticised the working class) and Realism was dubbed 'Bourgeois Realism'. Leo is more High Renaissance (doy), and a lot of his paintings were flamboyant and idealistic - the portrayal of John the Baptist and even the Mona Lisa, for example. Although, according to Wikipedia, Leo was the only one amongst his colleagues to masterfully depict nature-”
“Was she asking you or me?” Leo interjects.
“Does it matter who the question was asked to, so long as it is answered?” Rogue replies.
Leo scowls, “I swear to God - Jesus Christ!-” he points a finger at Rogue, “You and Haytham and Shaun - good grief! - you make me want to tear my hair out!”
“Shaun is worse than me. You know that.”
Leonardo sighs, “Anyway, Ahlaam, I was much too busy with my experiments and travels and such to focus on my artistic talents.”
“Like that one very accurate map you drew to impress Cesare Borgia?” Rogue asks.
“Rogue, we've been over this,” Leonardo gives Rogue a withering look.
“He made you his military instructor and adviser,” Rogue insists.
“I am not having this discussion a second time.”
Rogue shrugs, “Fine.”
You look from Rogue to Leonardo and back and laugh to yourself.
“What?” they both say.
You smile knowingly and reply, “I was unsure whether this trip would be worth it.”
There is a pause, a silence only disturbed by the chirping of caged birds.
“And...?” Rogue asks.
You just turn around and walk back the way you came...