“He’s gone quiet,” said Santino Zambrano, one of the condottieri mercenaries of the Rings of Gold company.

“I’ll get him going again,” replied his captain, Giustino Valenti. Rising, he clipped on his cuirass and drew his sword, pounding the pommel on the wooden door. “Hey! You in there! We didn’t do through all the trouble of capturing you so you could sleep! You’re to build us weapons and make a chart of Venice’s naval defenses!”

No response.

Zambrano’s face glistened with sweat. “What if we killed him, or he killed himself? He knows the Medicis and the King of France! Do yuo have any idea what they’d do to us if we not only kidnapped but killed the great Leonardo da Vinci?”

“Quiet, quiet,” snapped Valenti. “Do you want the boss to hear you blubbering like that? We condottieri of the Rings of Gold company are made of sterner stuff. He’s probably just playing dead.”

The mercenary opened the door and advanced into the darkened room, rapier and mein gauche drawn. Zambrano followed with just his boot dagger.

“Where are you, you stinking old sodomite?” barked Valenti. The room was dark; the prisoner had extinguished all lights and only a thin sliver filtered in from the arrow slit in the wall.

“Look at this,” said Zambrano. He had taken up a handful of Leonardo’s papers with the intention of stuffing them down his cuirass and selling them. “These look like gloves and body armor, not cannons and ballista like the boss told him to design for us.”

“Put that down! Do you want to-” Valenti was cut off by movement in the corner of his eye. Something flashed across Zambrano’s field of vision, and he saw his captain stumble backwards, gurgling and clawing at a crossbow bolt in his neck. A figure moved in the shadows, much larger than a man, and moved about with a sudden belching of smoke and fire.

Zambrano fled the room, pursued by whatever he had roused, screaming an alarm. The remaining Rings of Gold mercenaries, save for their absent leader, sprang into action. A phalanx of pikemen surrounded the makeshift prison’s only exit, while arquebusiers backed them up with loaded guns.

Leonardo’s war machine tore through them in seconds.

Emerging into the full sunshine, Zambrano could see that the captive had fashioned himself a suit of armor from the cannon components, somehow using the power of a small stove on his back to allow his frail frame to move the hundredweight of brass and iron and steel. A blade at the end of one arm sliced the pikes to matchwood, while a projector on the other belched Greek fire, breaking the men’s ranks as they died in flaming agony. The arquebusiers, out of range, replied with a volley, but their lead shot clinked harmlessly off Leonardo’s armor. In response, the inventor pulled a lever and a rack of vertically-mounted miniature magazine-fed crossbows appeared over his shoulders; the gunmen fell before Zambrano even heard the twang of the strings.

Cowering, Zambrano threw down his weapons and raised his hands. Leonardo’s war machine approached him and one of the metal gauntlets seized the front of the mercenary’s armor, hauling him bodily off his feet.

“What…what are you?” sputtered the condottieri.

Leonardo’s eyes glistened from behind an armor-plated mask. “I am Renaissance Man,” he growled.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!