Immortal by Traci L. Slatton Read Free Book Online

Book: Immortal by Traci L. Slatton Read Free Book Online
Authors: Traci L. Slatton
privilege of going out. I leaned against the wall to gather my strength.
    “Luca, I was coming for you,” Simonetta said, appearing in front of me. She stroked my hair gently. “What are you doing out of your room? Be careful, you’ll call Silvano’s attention to yourself!” She motioned. “Come,” she said, taking a candle out of the sconce on the wall. She led me through the long hall. As we passed other doors, she knocked, and motioned the occupants to join us. It was so unusual a happening that, despite the lassitude in my body, I eyed them with unabashed curiosity. Mostly they were children like me, boys and girls in assorted ages, shapes, and sizes. There were pale blonds, redheads, dark gypsies, and even a few Africans with glossy ebony skin over rolling round muscles. There was a slender red-eyed boy whose skin and hair lacked color, like white linen, and a dwarf child who stood barely to my waist. We were all silent, most so demure they didn’t even raise their eyes. I wondered how they’d arrived here, if they’d been plucked off the streets like me or sold by their parents, like Marco. Women joined us, mostly young, all beautiful, except for two enormously fat women. Two grown men couldn’t have circled the fat women’s waists with their arms. I tried to imagine how much they had to eat to grow so huge, and had to stop when I felt weak visualizing a breakfast of sweets with butter and cream and lunch with a pot of soup and an entire haunch of spit-roasted beef. Simonetta turned another corner and brought us to a large door. She threw the sash and led us downstairs.
    Torches set in sconces lit our way down worn stone stairs. A little blond, beribboned girl behind me started to cry. I slowed until I was beside her. She seized my hand in a spastic gesture and squeezed. It was the first time anyone had ever turned to me for comfort, and I was unaccountably moved. My chest puffed out with courage. Despite my lightheadedness, I squeezed back gently and smiled. She gave me a terrified look out of blue eyes as big as milk bowls and clung to my hand as if it comforted her.
    We entered a large cold cellar lit with torches. Flames threw malignant shadows on gray stone walls, and Silvano stood in the center with a group of burly men who had the hardened look of condottieri, the hired soldiers who defended Florence from those old rival cities Pisa and Torino. Silvano’s face, with its bladelike nose, looked relaxed and ruddy in the torchlight. He turned abruptly so that he stood in profile to us, and the play of light and shadow on his hair and beard gave the appearance of another face on the side of his head, where his cheek and ear should be. He motioned and two tall, coarse men stepped forward, holding Marco limply between them. Marco looked pale and dazed. His porcelain face was dirty and scraped, his lower lip was split, and his clothes were torn. I gasped, then covered my mouth with my hand.
    “This is Marco. You know him,” Silvano announced, with a wave of his hand. “He had privileges here, didn’t you, beautiful Marco? But you abused my trust.” Silvano clucked his tongue in mock disappointment. He circled Marco, who kept his eyes trained on the floor, and I felt fear gripping my chest. Something gleamed white in Silvano’s hand. At first I thought he had a giant tooth growing out of that hand, but then he tossed it into the air and caught it in his other hand, and I saw that it was a long, thin knife.
    “By my supreme grace, Marco was granted the privilege of going outside,” Silvano said. “But he thought he would stay out. He thought he would never come back!” With that Silvano pounced on Marco, slashing. Blood spurted from the flexion fold in the back of Marco’s right knee. Marco screamed then, his chin lifting toward the ceiling as he howled in anguish. His leg went limp and he folded over on that side. The children and women around me fell to sobbing, mutely. Something inside me ripped

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