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Chapter 2


Frank Stone slammed the door behind him. Giovanna looked up at him from the table where she was going over some of the Committee's paperwork—the interminable minutes of one of Massimo's interminable theory workshops, from the looks—and her face suddenly grew pensive.

Uh, oh, Frank thought. Shouldn't bring it home with me. He forced himself to take a deep breath and stand up straight, relax. "Sorry," he said. "Been talking with your dad again."

"I hope it wasn't too bad, this time?"

Frank chuckled, feeling his bad mood evaporate. "I guess we're sort of feeding off each other a bit. Massimo's no help, either. He gets all prickly and defensive about everything, these days."

"What was it about?"

Frank waved it away and went over to pour himself a glass of wine. "Wasn't anything, really."

"Then why could I hear you from three floors above?" The tone of her voice was . . . ambivalent.

Not that Frank could blame her. She'd been Daddy's Little Girl when they'd met, on the very day that Frank first arrived in Venice, and then she and Frank had fallen head-over-heels in love. After that there'd been all that stuff that had happened when they went to try to rescue Galileo, although describing it as just "stuff" was on a par with describing the Civil War as a bit of a disagreement—which had somehow managed to culminate in their wedding.

Now they were settling down to as near a normal married life as you could get in a family that was still doing most of the work of the Committees of Correspondence in Italy, work that was organized on traditional Marcoli family principles. Everyone pulling in three directions at once, followed by a huge argument.

And when it came to arguing, the Marcolis were Italian to the bone. Frank had tried sweet reason a few times—and the mess that that had gotten him into was still causing minor political shockwaves—and had slowly found himself going native in fine style, complete with full volume and waving arms.

Usually at Messer Marcoli, Senior, Antonio of that ilk, a man who'd very nearly made himself seventeenth-century Italy's own John Brown, hanging after Harper's Ferry included. Injury had kept him off that particular mission, which would then have failed if they hadn't happened to have had a mad Frenchman along to supply, with hindsight, most of the planning and, just to put the cherry on the top of it, an assassination attempt on the pope.

Frank wondered what his own dad would have made of it. He certainly wouldn't have approved of making Giovanna suffer the spectacle of the two guys she cared most about, her father and her husband, getting in to blazing rows about . . .

What had it been this time? Frank was already having trouble remembering how it started, but he seemed to recall something about organizing the soccer league.

How it had ended was with Antonio Marcoli telling Frank he was a poor excuse for a son-in-law, disobedient and wayward. In return, Frank had reminded Antonio of some choicer passages from the Venetian Committee's statements as to the rights of free people, and all but called the old guy a fascist.

Not that that would have made much of an impression, but the yelling and swearing probably did. And would be the cue for a good couple of days' sulking. On both sides, Frank realized, thinking back.

He sighed. "Giovanna, it's going to be a lot easier when we get some help down from Germany. Your dad's going to have someone else to rail at instead of me."

The Committee in Germany had promised some help, training if nothing else, but for the moment they were all busier than they could handle up there, what with the wars and the other mayhem. The promise of aid—reading between the lines, on Mike Stearns' all-but-orders—had become increasingly abject apologies that the assembly of a team of activists was being delayed by one urgent necessity after another.

It wasn't that Frank didn't believe them. Given what he'd heard about what was happening north of the Alps, at least some of that "urgent necessity" was pretty damned urgent. That still didn't make him any happier about the fact that he'd have to maintain the daily walk on eggshells he needed to make in order to deal with his in-laws for some time to come.

"Frank," Giovanna said, and then stopped.

"Yeah?" he said, encouraging her to go on.

"Maybe we shouldn't wait for the German Committee."

Frank frowned. "What do you mean?"

"I think maybe we should start working on Massimo's plan to spread the Committee elsewhere in Italy, no?"

Frank noticed she was chewing the inside of her lip, the way she did when she was thinking hard and deep about something. That made him feel good about the way the conversation was going for two reasons:

First, because Giovanna was probably the smartest of the Marcolis, if only because she had the same brains her dad did without the hairy-eyed temperament that went with it. And, second, because it was cute as all hell.

Frank cleared his throat. "Okay, lay it out for me—how are we going to do that with your dad dragging his heels all the way?"

"We should go back to Rome," she said. "I think."

It was all Frank could do not to sigh. There were also some disadvantages to having a smart wife.

There was no point lying to her, either. Giovanna had an ability to detect Frank telling lies that bordered on the supernatural.

"Well, yes," he admitted. "Venice is just too . . . different, I guess, from the rest of Italy. It's ultimately a side show, here. Politically speaking."

She seemed to be only half-listening to him. "Naples, maybe? Instead of Rome, I mean."

Frank was paralyzed, for just an instant. It had suddenly dawned on him that, from the standpoint of the danger involved to Giovanna, Rome was almost infinitely better than Naples.

Slowly, he sat down at the kitchen table, while he thought about it.

True enough, they'd have to be careful in Rome, what with the Papal Inquisition right there on their figurative doorstep. But with some experience, Frank had come to realize that the "Inquisition"—the papal variety of it, anyway, if not the Spanish—wasn't actually the pack of slavering torturers he'd vaguely remembered from his up-time history reading. They could be awfully scary, at times, to be sure. Still, they tended to respect certain limits—and, whatever else, they weren't usually given to precipitous action.

Naples, on the other hand . . .

Naples was a political powderkeg. To make things worse—much worse—Naples had the Spanish army sitting on top of it. And the Spanish authorities, at times, were given to precipitous actions.

It wasn't simply an issue of their personal safety, either. As much as he tried to protect Giovanna, Frank understood perfectly well that engaging in revolutionary activity was inherently a risky proposition—and there was no way to keep Giovanna out of it, even if he was so inclined.

But Naples was a political mess, as well as a powderkeg. A city with a long-standing revolutionary tradition of its own, with a multitude of political tendencies and unofficial parties. From the standpoint of a fledgling Committee of Correspondence, just getting off the ground in Italy, it would be an inhospitable environment. They'd probably wind up spending more time quarreling with other revolutionists than they would getting anything productive accomplished.

"No," he said firmly. "Let's go to Rome."

Giovanna nodded. "I will speak to my father about it."

Maybe he'll decide to stay behind in Venice. But Frank knew it was a hopeless wish.


There was nothing unusual about an atmosphere of tension in the halls of the curia. If anything, Cardinal Antonio Barberini the Younger reflected, it would be a sign something was badly amiss if at least a few of the cardinals, monsignors and what-not present were not pointedly ignoring each other, barbing their comments or outright yelling insults. For a body that in theory was moved and guided by the Holy Spirit, it was usually infernally bad tempered.

And, of course, the last few years had been . . . more strained than usual. And the cardinal presently rising to speak had been the source of much of it. Or, at least, more of it than any of the other purple-clad mischief-makers Rome was home to.

Cardinal Gaspar Borja y Velasco. Like every other Spanish prelate, part of the government of His Most Catholic Majesty Phillip of Spain. This one in particular was a leading member of Spain's privy council, holder of enough offices to make him almost a quorum of government in his own right. He was also firmly in that part of the Church in Spain that regarded the church as an arm of the Spanish Government, and in a very real sense could not see where government left off and the church began, or vice versa.

Only two years before he had made it plain—loudly, publicly and with the crashing lack of tact that was practically the man's signature—that that view did not apply only to the Church in Spain. Two hundred years of being the only power in Spain whose writ ran untrammeled in every one of the kingdoms of Spain—even His Most Catholic Majesty had limits to his powers outside Aragon and Castile—two hundred years of inquisitorial power unmatched anywhere outside of the papal states, and the Church in Spain clearly believed it was time for the Roman dog to stop wagging the Spanish tail.

Unlike England a century before, they had the guns and ships and tercios to give their opinion weight, not least by reason of owning enough of northern and southern Italy that they had the Papal States in a strategic vise that they could screw closed at any time. What stopped them was a need, for the time being and only grudgingly recognized in Madrid, to maintain at least a passing semblance of obedience to Rome.

Not that that had stopped Borja from loudly condemning the See of Rome's inaction against Gustavus Adolphus, failure to burn Galileo like the heretic he plainly was, and willingness to appoint a near-Protestant like the American Mazzare to the purple.

The criticism of the failure to act against the Swede had been the only one Urban VIII had chosen to answer. He had, with some accuracy, pleaded poverty. A military undertaking that had strained the resources of the entire arrayed might of the house of Habsburg, with all their imperial dominions and an annual treasure fleet from the Americas was beyond the pope's means to put in any more than the proverbial widow's mite. Two million widow's mites, to be exact, but still a pittance next to the cost sunk in failing to stop Gustavus Adolphus from reversing every success of Catholic arms of the last fifteen years.

Still, it had been grounds for Borja to accuse the pope of being, in so many words, insufficiently Catholic. He had nearly been ordered out of Rome for that, and then his performance after the Galileo affair—which had, in truth, been a whitewash but it was tactless to say so—had got him slung out.

And now he was back. He had at least had the good grace to confine himself, before today, to sulking quietly in his villa on the outskirts of Rome, but he had not wasted his time back in Spain. If Vitelleschi's reports were right—and seldom were the Jesuit father general's formidable spymasters not in possession of accurate information—then Borja was here in the van of a small horde of prelates and cardinals, each of whom was coming to Rome to demonstrate how much more Catholic than Pope Urban VIII, né Cardinal Maffeo Barberini, he actually was. And he had stopped off in Naples on the way here and apparently met with the duke of Osuna. What deal those two had done was anyone's guess. None of the channels of spycraft Barberini could access had been able to divine what had happened behind that closed door. But it was sure to be a devils' bargain for someone.

The Spanish prelates, meanwhile, had been arriving in Rome every few days for weeks now, all direct from Spain, and as soon as they had washed off the dust of travel had paid an immediate visit to that villa outside Rome, followed by long hours in closed sessions with their compatriots all over Rome. Barberini had engaged his own staff in imagining what they might be up to, in more detail than the obvious "no good," as had his brother Francesco Barberini. The results varied from the uncomfortable to the downright alarming. At the very least, among them they held enough offices and concomitant rights to intervene and interfere that they could tie up procedural business in Rome for months, slowing down the already ponderous curial bureaucracy to a pace that would make a snail look lightning fast.

And now Borja had presented himself for a session of the curia.

"It begins," the whisper came from behind Barberini. That was Ciampoli, Barberini's secretary, who had led the strategy sessions and had good reason to suspect the worst of Borja. Until the Galileo affair he had been a private secretary to the pope, a prestigious position, but the limited amount of damage Borja had been able to do had included impeaching the man away from direct papal service. Naturally, Barberini had grabbed him as quickly as he decently could. Talented, bright, learned in the sciences, he was visibly a coming man and had the skills Barberini recognized as necessary for what the new political winds in Europe would blow through Rome.

Borja began to speak. "If Your Holiness will permit?" he said, his pinched, ruddy and choleric face making a halfhearted effort at an unctuous smile as he awaited permission to speak.

Barberini looked over at his uncle the pope. His Holiness was his usual serene self, calm eyed and affable. Of course, with fifty years' experience of Roman politicking he would be giving nothing away, although he doubtless had more than just the dark imaginings of his nephew's own staff to inform his worries. Barberini recalled a remark made by the young American, Frank Stone, at whose wedding Barberini had officiated. "Just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean they're not out to get you."

He'd had to get Father—now Cardinal—Mazarre to explain what paranoia was, and had observed that it sounded like a perfectly healthy reaction to living and working in the top ranks of the Church. Indeed, it was those who were not paranoid who were unhealthy, or at least very soon would be.

Mazzare had chuckled, and told Barberini the old, to him at least, joke about the king who had brooded "I'm paranoid, but am I paranoid enough?" Another text for these times.

But His Holiness had nodded permission for Borja to speak.

"I thank Your Holiness," the Spanish inquisitor said, "And I would beg clarification of certain matters which I and, I fear, his most Catholic Majesty, view with no little alarm."

Barberini winced. As subtle as a joke about farting. As blatant as a street-corner whore. There was this to be said about Rome's infighting: it weeded out the dullards. Spain, on the other hand, had to find jobs for its teeming and indefatigably inbred nobility, and some of them rose to damnably high levels.

Borja cleared his throat. "Your Holiness," he went on, "has in particular elevated enemies of the church to the rank of cardinal."

That brought an intake of breath from half of the cardinals present. There had been three new cardinals in the last year—Mazzare, Cardinal Protector of the new United States of Europe, Mazarini in France, at Richelieu's behest and almost certainly another of Richelieu's attempts to preempt history with an early appointment, and LeClerc, the former "Father Joseph" and another of Richelieu's creatures.

Barberini wondered if it was worth parsing that. Enemies, plural? All of them or just the two who formed a definite group? Or just the one, and Borja was being as ham-fisted as he usually was with his rhetoric?

"In particular," Borja was saying, "there are those who have actively supported the chiefest of the Church's enemies in the north. All, in fact, of Your Holiness's recent appointments to the purple—"

The pope had raised a hand for silence. "If Your Eminence will pause for a moment?"

Borja nodded assent, and, a palpably false smile on his face, resumed his seat.

Urban VIII cleared his throat. "We are advised that there is obstinate doubt of Our policy." Another intake of breath, this time from nearly everyone present.

Barberini included. That was the form of words used in the technical definition of heresy, a most serious charge to lay against anyone, let alone a prince of the church and an inquisitor. Small wonder that there was shock. For a pope, the absolute head of the Church, Urban was known to be a genial man, little given to outright confrontation where it could be avoided. What was causing him to deliver such an obvious slap in the face to his most blatant critic?

"Let it be known," Urban went on over the sudden and urgent whispering, "That We are saddened by the disputes among the secular princes of Christendom. As Common Father of all Catholics, We are particularly saddened by the practice of princes, a practice which has become common, of one accusing the other of being an enemy of the Church. What is enmity to the Church is for Us to decide, and no other."

That provoked another hiss, this time—Barberini was watching carefully—from the Spaniards. The decision as to who, within the dominions of His Most Catholic Majesty, was an enemy of the Church, was arrogated exclusively to the Spanish Inquisition. So it had long been, and doubtless they wished it to remain so for ever. Although the reference could be taken to mean Maximilian of Bavaria, whose pronouncements concerning the rulers of surrounding territories and, indeed, the papacy were sounding more and more lunatic as time went by.

This time Urban waited for the disturbances to die down before speaking again. "We are also minded to consider that the practice of winning souls for the Church is a matter for the Church, and not for secular princes to attempt by wager of battle. We are, however, not yet minded to make any pronouncement ex cathedra."

The silence that followed was profound. The subtlety of curial proceedings had been abandoned by both Borja and his nominal master. The House of Habsburg had been a prime proponent of the principle of cuius regio, eius religio, and to address such a remark as that in response to the ranking cardinal of the Habsburg party present was as direct a rebuke as could have been delivered without naming names. It was, Barberini realized, only to be expected when dealing with Borja, who had all but had to be beaten over the head with the encyclical ordering him to leave Rome before he would go.

Borja had risen to his feet, his usually ruddy complexion gone an even darker shade of red. "Your Holiness then does not support the winning of souls for the Church?"

Urban raised his hand in an admonitory gesture. "We support the missionary work of Our clergy, and no other means of winning converts. If this must be in territories where the government is opposed to Us, We observe that the Church has never wanted for brave souls called to the martyr's crown."

Borja's flush paled a little. Even he could pick the nuances out of that, Barberini realized. Not just territories opposed to the Church, but territories opposed to the papacy.

And then Barberini followed it all the way to the end. Was Urban expecting the worst, truly the worst, from Borja? A church of Spain, to join the church of England? Even an antipope in Madrid?

Barberini felt a shudder run down his spine. With Spain outside the church there would be no need for even nominal obedience to Rome, and the Papal States would be crushed. Even after her reverses, Spain was a power, arguably the power whatever the scientific wizardries of the USE could achieve. The resistance the Papal States could offer would be a token at best against an army that had lost but one battle in the last century. Was the martyr Urban referred to himself? Barberini looked around the room and saw a lot of faces growing very thoughtful indeed.

Not least Borja's. Doubtless he had expected a less forthright response, not a flat declaration of the pope's willingness to resist from the first. If the papacy entered into outright defiance, Spain's isolation would be complete, with their cousins in Austria already adapting to the new way of doing things and their king's brother asserting his independence. "Your Holiness . . ." he said, and paused.

"We thank you for this opportunity to make known Our thoughts on this matter," Urban said. "And We would further be grateful if Your Eminence would recall the words of our encyclical on the subject of cardinals remaining in their Sees. It is there that the missionary work of the Church goes on, and there that We depend on Our cardinals to oversee that work."

Borja remained silent. Barberini stared hard, and fancied he could see Borja's lips moving silently, although a casual glance would see the grinding jaw of a very angry man. Whatever prepared script he had had, he had clearly been diverted from it.

From behind Barberini, a whisper from Ciampoli, "We should plan for worse things from Borja, I believe."

Barberini waved him to silence, irritably. This would have to be thought over very carefully. It was far from necessary for his uncle to take his most junior cardinal into his most secret counsels, but surely some warning of so radical a response to Borja's machinations would have been sensible?

On the floor, Borja was still silent, and had been for nearly a minute. Everyone present was watching him carefully. The next words from the Spanish cardinal would, potentially, decide great matters in the life of the Church. Even, in a very real sense, how much life the Church might have left in it, for Urban had presented Borja—and by extension Borja's masters in Madrid, assuming they knew and approved of what he was doing, by no means a foregone conclusion—with a vision of the Church in ruins if Spain acted against the papacy.

Perhaps that was the plan? Barberini had to admire the audacity of it if it was. To threaten to play Samson in the temple if Borja truly challenged Rome's authority, to make the consequences of disobedience so severe that no one in his right mind would dare—it was all Barberini could do to suppress a smile. Assuming Borja was in his right mind was at best risky. Or that he had a mind to be right in, were one to be brutally candid.

Borja finally spoke, visibly trembling. "I thank Your Holiness for the clarification of these matters," he said, "and by your leave will withdraw from your presence to consider Your Holiness' words in detail."

Urban nodded. "It were better, I think, if We were to declare the day's business at an end and adjourn," with which he rose and left, not pausing to say the customary benediction.

Barberini lost all temptation to smile with that. Was his uncle deliberately provoking the Spaniard? It was the only possible explanation. Had Borja been allowed to flounce out in the rage he was obviously feeling, he might have saved a little face, a matter vitally important to the notoriously touchy Spaniard.

As it was, he was left standing before his chair on the floor of the chamber in which the curia had met, publicly snubbed by the pope after a rebuke that had had all the charm and subtlety of a shovelful of horse-shit to the face. He turned on his heel and stormed out, trailed after a moment's hesitation by his attendants and then, in their turn, the rest of the Spanish cardinals.

Barberini, at least, awaited his proper place in the order of protocol before leaving.


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