Rendezvous on the Ponte Vecchio
A stairway to heaven
Before he could see her, he heard her coming; the sharp stabbing on the worn cobbles...clikk, clikk,clikk... as if she walked on knives instead of stilettos. Then out of the swirl of early morning fog, a blue-cloaked figure, striding purposefully towards him, emerged.
“Oh dear, I thought it might be you ‘Queen of Swords’ declared Saint Miniato, greeting the stylish figure by his tarot name for her. She sat down beside him.
“And don’t bother to ask if I want company or not!” he challenged, eyes rolling in his disembodied head.
“C’mon Miniato, stop being so peevish; it doesn’t become a saint, you know.” She admonished her companion.
“Become a saint? Well, Queen of Swords, you’ll never know!” he rejoined haughtily.
“Don’t be so sure, Miniato. I’m here on a mission of mercy, to perform a selfless gesture, you may join me, if only you’ll leave our little contretemps behind.” She turned to smile beguilingly at the head cradled in Minato’s lap.
It looked up at her through arched brows, “Little contretemps? Is that what you call your attempts to exorcise me from my bridge?” the specter replied indignantly.
“Alright, I admit that perhaps I took a one-sided view of the matter, but really Miniato, your hi-jinks were disrupting the bridge’s tourist trade upon which so many of its merchants depend. People were very scared at the sight of your smoking Galois floating by, to say nothing of your disembodied, bloodied head leering out at them from the shop windows! As I recall, a troupe of seniors became hysterical and fainted; they were Americans I think, but then they easily become hysterical...” she waved a hand dismissively.
“I didn’t mean any harm; I just wanted to have fun. I didn’t have much fun in my life, between the piety and the martyrdom. Anyway, I heard that in London people pay good money to be terrified by their ghosts!” said Miniato defensively.
“I think that’s mainly Germans and Japanese; they enjoy terror.” She replied.
“Anyway, will you help me or not?” “Depends...what is it you want me to help you with, Cosima?” he replied, addressing her now by her proper name.
“I know you are a particular friend of that poor Iacobello girl who’s lost her father and her shop; such a tragedy. I want to help her and her other friend, you may know her also, Chiara? Judge Valori’s daughter?” she inquired innocently.
“Go on, Cosima” the Saint urged cynically.
“Well, I’ve had a little misunderstanding with them, young people can be so sensitive and I’m sure your supporting my mission would go a long way to healing our rift and expediting matters. All in their interests, of course.” She smiled.
“Hm, and what is the help you’re offering?” asked the saint.
“As you know, I am quite influential in this city, as such I can expedite work permits, restoration of utilities, cut through the red tape, so Ms. Iacobello can get her lovely shop up and running again. And since insurance companies are notoriously quick to bill, but slow to pay, I’m willing to help her if there’s an immediate short fall of cash. Alright?” Cosima chuckled, patting the top of her companion’s head.
“Don’t do that, Cosima. It’s not funny! You know I’m very sensitive about my head... I will help you, but there’s another problem; the issue of the missing boy.”
“What? Whose boy is missing and why should I care about it” asked Cosima, surprised.
“The boy is Marcello Valori-Pinna. Ring a bell, Queen of Swords? I guess you won’t want to help your sweetheart, Benedetto Valori recover his lost grandson, eh?” Miniato smirked, gaining the upper-hand. “The Judge doesn’t know the child is missing; Chiara and Salome were spell-casting last eclipse, trying to find the lost necklace, but lost Marcello in Dante’s Purgatorio instead! They don’t know how to get him back...they need your help, Cosima.”
“Obviously, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing in the hands of the young and unschooled; Benedetto was afraid Chiara was fooling around in the esoteric realms. But how to get someone out of Purgatorio?” She was stumped.
“There’s a portal in my church, Dante himself refers to it in his epic poem, so he knows about it.” Miniato closed his eyes and recited some of the lines from memory:
...As to ascend that steep,
upon whose brow the chapel stands,
(O’er Rubaconte, looking lordly down
On the well-guided city ), up the right
The impetuous rise is broken by the steps
Carved in that old and simple age...
As, entering, there we turn’d, voices, in strain ineffable, sang:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit.”
Ah! how far unlike to these
The straits of Hell: here songs to usher us,
There shrieks of woe. We climb the holy stairs...
“The chapel upon the steep rise is my church; the well-guided city, Florence. Dante’s beloved city and mine”. Then opening his eyes, Miniato suddenly alert declared, “But Dante needs a reaper, that’s where you come in Cosima.”
She pondered his proposal, “A reaper, one to go through the portal and bring certain souls and people back...risky, for the reaper and the reaped, but I think I know a spell that might get them sacred protection. Yes, I can do this, with your help dear saint,” she whispered thoughtfully.
“Of course, I’ll help, but remember Queen of Swords, I’m a saint, not a sorcerer,” declared Miniato. “The sorcery is up to you.” he warned sharply.