INFERNO 23 - Welcome to My Woven Words

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INFERNO 23


SNAKING THROUGH HEAVY crowds on the
Riva degli Schiavoni, Langdon, Sienna, and Ferris hugged the water’s edge, making their way into St. Mark’s Square and arriving at its southernmost border, the edge where the piazza met the sea.
Here the throng of tourists was almost impenetrable, creating a claustrophobic crush around Langdon as the multitudes gravitated over to photograph the two massive columns that stood here, framing the square.
The official gateway to the city,
Langdon thought ironically, knowing the spot had also been used for public executions until as late as the eighteenth century.
Atop one of the gateway’s columns he could see a bizarre statue of St. Theodore, posing proudly with his slain dragon of legendary repute, which always looked to Langdon much more like a crocodile.
Atop the second column stood the ubiquitous symbol of Venice—the winged lion. Throughout the city, the winged lion could be seen with his paw resting proudly on an open book bearing the Latin inscription Pax tibi Marce, evangelista meus (May Peace Be with You, Mark, My Evangelist).
According to legend, these words were spoken by an angel upon St. Mark’s arrival in Venice, along with the prediction that his body would one day rest here. This apocryphal legend was later used by Venetians to justify plundering St. Mark’s bones from Alexandria for reburial in St. Mark’s Basilica. To this day, the winged lion endures as the city’s symbol and is visible at nearly every turn.
Langdon motioned to his right, past the columns, across St. Mark’s Square. “If we get separated, meet at the front door of the basilica.”
The others agreed and quickly began skirting the edges of the crowd and following the western wall of the Doge’s Palace into the square. Despite the laws forbidding feeding them, the celebrated pigeons of Venice appeared to be alive and well, some pecking about at the feet of the crowds and others swooping into the outdoor cafés to pillage unprotected bread baskets and torment the tuxedoed waiters.
This grand piazza, unlike most in Europe, was shaped not in the form of a square but rather in that of the letter L. The shorter leg—known as the piazzetta—connected the ocean to St. Mark’s Basilica. Up ahead, the square took a ninety-degree left turn into its larger leg, which ran from the basilica toward the Museo Correr. Strangely, rather than being rectilinear, the square was an irregular trapezoid, narrowing substantially at one end. This funhouse-type illusion made the piazza look far longer than it was, an effect that was accentuated by the grid of tiles whose patterns outlined the original stalls of fifteenth-century street merchants.
As Langdon continued on toward the elbow of the square, he could see, directly ahead in the distance, the shimmering blue glass dial of the St. Mark’s Clock Tower—the same astronomical clock through which James Bond had thrown a villain in the film Moonraker.





It was not until this moment, as he entered the sheltered square, that Langdon could fully appreciate this city’s most unique offering.
Sound.
With virtually no cars or motorized vehicles of any kind, Venice enjoyed a blissful absence of the usual civic traffic, subways, and sirens, leaving sonic space for the distinctly unmechanical tapestry of human voices, cooing pigeons, and lilting violins serenading patrons at the outdoor cafés. Venice sounded like no other metropolitan center in the world.
As the late-afternoon sun streamed into St. Mark’s from the west, casting long shadows across the tiled square, Langdon glanced up at the towering spire of the campanile, which rose high over the square and dominated the ancient Venetian skyline. The upper loggia of the tower was packed with hundreds of people. Even the mere thought of being up there made him shiver, and he put his head back down and continued through the sea of humanity.
Sienna could easily have kept up with Langdon, but Ferris was lagging behind, and Sienna had decided to split the difference in order to keep both men in sight. Now, however, as the distance between them grew more pronounced, she looked back impatiently. Ferris pointed to his chest, indicating he was winded, and motioned for her to go on ahead.
Sienna complied, moving quickly after Langdon and losing sight of Ferris. Yet as she wove her way through the crowd, a nagging feeling held her back—the strange suspicion that Ferris was lagging behind intentionally … as if he were trying to put distance between them.
Having learned long ago to trust her instincts, Sienna ducked into an alcove and looked out from the shadows, scanning the crowd behind her and looking for Ferris.
Where did he go?!
It was as if he were no longer even trying to follow them. Sienna studied the faces in the crowd, and finally she saw him. To her surprise, Ferris had stopped and was crouched low, typing into his phone.
The same phone he told me had a dead battery.
A visceral fear gripped her, and again she knew she should trust it.
He lied to me on the train.
As Sienna watched him, she tried to imagine what he was doing.
Secretly          texting           someone?
Researching behind her back? Trying to solve the mystery of Zobrist’s poem before Langdon and Sienna could do so?
Whatever his rationale, he had blatantly lied to her.
I can’t trust him.
Sienna wondered if she should storm over and confront him, but she quickly decided to slip back into the crowd before he spotted her. She headed again toward the basilica, searching for Langdon. I’ve got to warn him not to reveal anything else to Ferris.
She was only fifty yards from the basilica when she felt a strong hand tugging on her sweater from behind.
She spun around and found herself face-to-face with Ferris.
The man with the rash was panting heavily, clearly having dashed through the mob to catch up with her. There was a frantic quality about him that Sienna hadn’t seen before.
“Sorry,” he said, barely able to breathe. “I got lost in the crowd.”
The instant Sienna looked in his eyes, she knew.
He’s hiding something.
When Langdon arrived in front of St. Mark’s Basilica, he was surprised to discover that his two companions were no longer behind him. Also of surprise to Langdon was the absence of a line of tourists waiting to enter the church. Then again, Langdon realized, this was late afternoon in Venice, the hour when most tourists —their energy flagging from heavy lunches of pasta and wine—decided to stroll the piazzas or sip coffee rather than trying to absorb any more history.
Assuming that Sienna and Ferris would be arriving at any moment, Langdon turned his eyes to the entrance of the basilica before him. Sometimes accused of offering “an embarrassing surfeit of ingress,” the building’s lower facade was almost entirely taken up by a phalanx of five recessed entrances whose clustered columns, vaulted archways, and gaping bronze doors arguably made the building, if nothing else, eminently welcoming.
One of Europe’s finest specimens of Byzantine architecture, St. Mark’s had a decidedly soft and whimsical appearance. In contrast to the austere gray towers of Notre-Dame or Chartres, St. Mark’s seemed imposing and yet, somehow, far more down-to-earth. Wider than it was tall, the church was topped by five bulging whitewashed domes that exuded an airy, almost festive appearance, causing more than a few of the guidebooks to compare St. Mark’s to a meringue-topped wedding cake.
High atop the central peak of the church, a slender statue of St. Mark gazed down into the square that bore his name. His feet rested atop a crested arch that was painted midnight blue and dotted with golden stars. Against this colorful backdrop, the golden winged lion of Venice stood as the shimmering mascot of the city.
It was beneath the golden lion, however, that St. Mark’s displayed one of its most famous treasures— four mammoth copper stallions— which at the moment were glinting in the afternoon sun.
The Horses of St. Mark’s.
Poised as if prepared to leap down
at any moment into the square, these four priceless stallions—like so many treasures here in Venice—had been pillaged from Constantinople during the Crusades. Another similarly looted work of art was on display beneath the horses at the southwest corner of the church—a purple porphyry carving known as The Tetrarchs. The statue was well known for its missing foot, broken off while it was being plundered from Constantinople in the thirteenth century. Miraculously, in the 1960s, the foot was unearthed in Istanbul. Venice petitioned for the missing piece of statue, but the Turkish authorities replied with a simple
message: You stole the statue— we’re keeping our foot.
“Mister, you buy?” a woman’s voice said, drawing Langdon’s gaze downward.
A heavyset Gypsy woman was holding up a tall pole on which hung a collection of Venetian masks. Most were in the popular volto intero style —the stylized full-faced, white masks often worn by women during Carnevale. Her collection also contained some playful half-faced Colombina masks, a few trianglechinned bautas, and a strapless Moretta. Despite her colorful offerings, though, it was a single, grayish-black mask at the top of the pole that seized Langdon’s attention, its menacing dead eyes seeming to stare directly down at him over a long, beaked nose.
The plague doctor. Langdon averted his eyes, needing no reminder of what he was doing here in Venice.
“You buy?” the Gypsy repeated.
Langdon smiled weakly and shook his head. “Sono molto belle, ma no,
grazie.”
As the woman departed, Langdon’s gaze followed the ominous plague mask as it bobbed above the crowd. He sighed heavily and raised his eyes back to the four copper stallions on the second-floor balcony.
In a flash, it hit him.
Langdon felt a sudden rush of elements crashing together—Horses of St. Mark’s, Venetian masks, and pillaged treasures from
Constantinople.
“My God,” he whispered. “That’s it!”




ROBERT LANGDON WAS transfixed.
The Horses of St. Mark’s!
These four magnificent horses— with their regal necks and bold collars—had sparked in Langdon a sudden and unexpected memory, one he now realized held the explanation of a critical element of the mysterious poem printed on Dante’s death mask.
Langdon had once attended a celebrity wedding reception at New Hampshire’s historic Runnymede
Farm—home to Kentucky Derby winner Dancer’s Image. As part of the lavish entertainment, the guests were treated to a performance by the prominent equine theatrical troupe Behind the Mask—a stunning spectacle in which riders performed in dazzling Venetian costumes with their faces hidden behind volto intero masks. The troupe’s jet-black Friesian mounts were the largest horses Langdon had ever seen. Colossal in stature, these stunning animals thundered across the field in a blur of rippling muscles, feathered hooves, and three-foot manes flowing wildly behind their long, graceful necks.
The beauty of these creatures left such an impression on Langdon that upon returning home, he researched them online, discovering the breed had once been a favorite of medieval kings for use as warhorses and had been brought back from the brink of extinction in recent years. Originally known as Equus robustus, the breed’s modern name, Friesian, was a tribute to their homeland of Friesland, the Dutch province that was the birthplace of the brilliant graphic artist M. C. Escher.
As it turned out, the powerful bodies of the early Friesian horses had inspired the robust aesthetic of the Horses of St. Mark’s in Venice. According to the Web site, the Horses of St. Mark’s were so beautiful that they had become “history’s most frequently stolen pieces of art.”
Langdon had always believed that this dubious honor belonged to the Ghent Altarpiece and paid a quick visit to the ARCA Web site to confirm his theory. The Association for Research into Crimes Against Art offered no definitive ranking, but they did offer a concise history of the sculptures’ troubled life as a target of pillage and plunder.
The four copper horses had been cast in the fourth century by an unknown Greek sculptor on the island of Chios, where they remained until
Theodosius II whisked them off to Constantinople for display at the
Hippodrome. Then, during the Fourth Crusade, when Venetian forces sacked Constantinople, the ruling doge demanded the four precious statues be transported via ship all the way back to Venice, a nearly impossible feat because of their size and weight. The horses arrived in Venice in 1254, and were installed in front of the facade of St. Mark’s Cathedral.
More than half a millennium later, in 1797, Napoleon conquered Venice and took the horses for himself. They were transported to Paris and prominently displayed atop the Arc de Triomphe. Finally, in 1815, following Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo and his exile, the horses were winched down from the Arc de Triomphe and shipped on a barge back to Venice, where they were reinstalled on the front balcony of St. Mark’s Basilica.
Although Langdon had been fairly familiar with the history of the horses, the ARCA site contained a passage that startled him.
The decorative collars were added to the horses’ necks in 1204 by the Venetians to conceal where the heads had been severed to facilitate their transportation by ship from Constantinople to Venice.
The doge ordered the heads cut off the Horses of St. Mark’s? It seemed unthinkable to Langdon.
“Robert?!” Sienna’s voice was calling.
Langdon emerged    from his thoughts, turning to see Sienna pushing her way through the crowd with Ferris close at her side.
“The horses in the poem!” Langdon shouted excitedly. “I figured it out!” “What?” Sienna looked confused.
“We’re looking for a treacherous doge who severed the heads from horses!”
“Yes?”
“The poem isn’t referring to live horses.” Langdon pointed high on the facade of St. Mark’s, where a shaft of bright sun was illuminating the four copper statues. “It’s referring to those horses!”

ON BOARD THE Mendacium, Dr. Elizabeth Sinskey’s hands were trembling. She watched the video in the provost’s study, and although she had seen some terrifying things in her life, this inexplicable movie that Bertrand Zobrist had made before his suicide left her feeling as cold as death.
On the screen before her, the shadow of a beaked face wavered, projected on the dripping wall of an underground cavern. The silhouette continued speaking, proudly describing his masterpiece—the creation called Inferno—which would save the world by culling the population.
God save us, Sinskey thought. “We must …” she said, her voice quavering. “We must find that underground location. It may not be too late.”
“Keep watching,” the provost
replied. “It gets stranger.”
Suddenly the shadow of the mask grew larger on the wet wall, looming hugely before her, until a figure stepped suddenly into the frame.
Holy shit.
Sinskey was staring at a fully outfitted plague doctor—complete with the black cloak and chilling beaked mask. The plague doctor was walking directly toward the camera, his mask filling the entire screen to terrifying effect.
“ ‘The darkest places in hell,’ ” he whispered, “ ‘are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.’ ”
Sinskey felt goose bumps on her neck. It was the same quotation that Zobrist had left for her at the airline counter when she had eluded him in New York a year ago.
“I know,” the plague doctor continued, “that there are those who call me monster.” He paused, and Sinskey sensed his words were directed at her. “I know there are those who think me a heartless beast who hides behind a mask.” He paused again, stepping closer still to the camera. “But I am not faceless.
Nor am I heartless.”
With that, Zobrist pulled off his mask and lowered the hood of his cloak—his face laid bare. Sinskey stiffened, staring into the familiar green eyes she had last seen in the darkness of the CFR. His eyes in the video had the same passion and fire, but there was something else in them now—the wild zeal of a madman.
“My name is Bertrand Zobrist,” he said, staring into the camera. “And this is my face, unveiled and naked for the world to see. As for my soul … if I could hold aloft my flaming heart, as did Dante’s Lord for his beloved Beatrice, you would see I am overflowing with love. The deepest kind of love. For all of you. And, above all, for one of you.”
Zobrist stepped closer still, gazing deep into the camera and speaking softly, as if to a lover.
“My love,” he whispered, “my precious love. You are my beatitude, my destroyer of all vices, my endorser of all virtue, my salvation. You are the one who lay naked at my side and unwittingly helped me across the abyss, giving me the strength to do what I now have done.”
Sinskey listened with repulsion.
“My love,” Zobrist continued in a doleful whisper that echoed in the ghostly subterranean cavern in which he spoke. “You are my inspiration and my guide, my Virgil and my Beatrice all in one, and this masterpiece is as much yours as it is mine. If you and I, as star-crossed lovers, never touch again, I shall find my peace in knowing that I have left the future in your gentle hands. My work below is done. And now the hour has come for me to climb again to the world above … and rebehold the stars.”
Zobrist stopped talking, and the word stars echoed a moment in the cavern. Then, very calmly, Zobrist reached out and touched the camera, ending his transmission.
The screen went black.
“The underground location,” the provost said, turning off the monitor.
“We don’t recognize it. Do you?”
Sinskey shook her head. I’ve never seen anything like it. She thought of Robert Langdon, wondering if he had made any more headway in deciphering Zobrist’s clues.
“If it’s of any help,” the provost said, “I believe I know who Zobrist’s lover is.” He paused. “An individual code-named FS-2080.”
Sinskey jumped up. “FS-2080?!” She stared at the provost in shock.
The provost looked equally startled. “That means something to you?”
Sinskey gave an incredulous nod.
“It most certainly does.”
Sinskey’s heart was pounding. FS2080. While she didn’t know the identity of the individual, she certainly knew what the code name stood for. The WHO had been
monitoring similar code names for years.
“The Transhumanist movement,”
she said. “Are you familiar with it?” The provost shook his head.
“In the simplest terms,” Sinskey explained, “Transhumanism is a philosophy stating that humans should use all available technologies to engineer our own species to make it stronger. Survival of the fittest.”
The provost shrugged as if unmoved.
“Generally speaking,” she continued, “the Transhumanist movement is made up of responsible individuals—ethically accountable scientists, futurists, visionaries—but, as in many movements, there exists a small but militant faction that believes the movement is not moving fast enough. They are apocalyptic thinkers who believe the end is coming and that someone needs to take drastic action to save the future of the species.”
“And I’m guessing,” the provost said, “that Bertrand Zobrist was one of these people?”
“Absolutely,” Sinskey said. “A leader of the movement. In addition to being highly intelligent, he was enormously charismatic and penned doomsday articles that spawned an entire cult of zealots for
Transhumanism. Today, many of his fanatical disciples use these code names, all of which take a similar form—two letters and a four-digit number—for example, DG-2064, BA2105, or the one you just
mentioned.”
“FS-2080.”
Sinskey nodded. “That could only be a Transhumanist code name.”
“Do the numbers and letters have meaning?”
Sinskey motioned to his computer.
“Pull up your browser. I’ll show you.”
The provost looked uncertain but went to his computer and launched a search engine.
“Search for ‘FM-2030,’ ” Sinskey said, settling in behind him.
The provost typed FM-2030, and thousands of Web pages appeared.
“Click any of them,” Sinskey said.
The provost clicked the top hit, which returned a Wikipedia page showing a picture of a handsome Iranian         man—Fereidoun M.
Esfandiary—whom it described as an author, philosopher, futurist, and forefather of the Transhumanist
movement. Born in 1930, he was credited with introducing
Transhumanist philosophy to the multitudes, as well as presciently predicting in vitro fertilization, genetic engineering, and the globalization of civilization.
      According          to           Wikipedia,
Esfandiary’s boldest claim was that new technologies would enable him to live to be a hundred years old, a rarity for his generation. As a display of his confidence in future
technology, Fereidoun M. Esfandiary changed his name to FM-2030, a code name created by combining his first and middle initials along with the year in which he would turn one hundred. Sadly, he succumbed to pancreatic cancer at age seventy and never reached his goal, but in honor
of        his        memory,          zealous
Transhumanist followers still paid tribute to FM-2030 by adopting his naming technique.
When the provost finished reading, he stood up and walked to the window, staring blankly out at the ocean for a long moment.
“So,” he finally whispered, as if thinking aloud. “Bertrand Zobrist’s lover—this FS-2080—is obviously one
of these … Transhumanists.”
“Without a doubt,” Sinskey replied. “I’m sorry I don’t know exactly who
this FS-2080 is, but—”
“That was my point,” the provost interrupted, still staring out to sea. “I do know. I know exactly who it is.”

THE AIR ITSELF seems fashioned of gold.
Robert Langdon had visited many magnificent cathedrals in his life, but the ambience of St. Mark’s Chiesa d’Oro always struck him as truly singular. For centuries it had been claimed that simply breathing the air of St. Mark’s would make you a richer person. The statement was intended to be understood not only metaphorically, but also literally.
With an interior veneer consisting of several million ancient gold tiles, many of the dust particles hovering in the air were said to be actual flecks of gold. This suspended gold dust, combined with the bright sunlight that streamed through the large western window, made for a vibrant atmosphere that helped the faithful attain both spiritual wealth and, provided they inhaled deeply, a more worldly enrichment in the form of gilding their lungs.
At this hour, the low sun piercing the west window spread out over Langdon’s head like a broad, gleaming fan, or an awning of radiant silk. Langdon could not help but draw an awestruck breath, and he sensed Sienna and Ferris do the same beside him.
“Which way?” Sienna whispered.
Langdon motioned toward a set of ascending stairs. The museum section of the church was on the upper level and contained an extensive exhibit devoted to the Horses of St. Mark’s, which Langdon believed would quickly reveal the identity of the mysterious doge who had severed the animals’ heads.
As they climbed the stairs, he could see that Ferris was struggling again with his breathing, and Sienna caught Langdon’s eye, which she had been trying to do for several minutes now. Her expression was cautionary as she nodded discreetly toward Ferris and mouthed something Langdon couldn’t understand. Before he could ask her for clarification, though, Ferris glanced back, a split second too late, for Sienna had already averted her eyes and was staring directly at Ferris.
“You okay, Doctor?” she asked innocently.
Ferris nodded and climbed faster.
The talented actress, Langdon thought, but what was she trying to
tell me?

When they reached the second
tier, they could see the entire basilica spread out beneath them. The sanctuary had been constructed in the form of a Greek Cross, far more square in appearance than the elongated rectangles of St. Peter’s or Notre-Dame. With a shorter distance from narthex to altar, St. Mark’s exuded a robust, sturdy quality, as well as a feeling of greater accessibility.
Not to appear too accessible, however, the church’s altar resided behind a columned screen topped by an imposing crucifix. It was sheltered by an elegant ciborium and boasted one of the most valuable altarpieces in the world—the famed Pala d’Oro. An expansive backdrop of gilded
silver, this “golden cloth” was a fabric only in the sense that it was a fused tapestry of previous works—primarily
Byzantine enamel—all interwoven into a single Gothic frame. Adorned with some thirteen hundred pearls, four hundred garnets, three hundred sapphires, as well as emeralds, amethysts, and rubies, the Pala d’Oro was considered, along with the
Horses of St. Mark’s, to be one of the finest treasures in Venice.
Architecturally speaking, the word basilica defined any eastern, Byzantine-style church erected in Europe or the West. Being a replica of Justinian’s Basilica of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople, St. Mark’s was so eastern in style that guidebooks often suggested it as a viable alternative to visiting Turkish mosques, many of which were Byzantine cathedrals that had been turned into Muslim houses of worship.
     While     Langdon     would      never
consider St. Mark’s a stand-in for the spectacular mosques of Turkey, he did have to admit that one’s passion for Byzantine art could be satisfied with a visit to the secret suite of rooms just off the right transept in this church, in which was hidden the so-called Treasure of St. Mark—a glittering collection of 283 precious icons, jewels, and chalices acquired during the looting of Constantinople.
Langdon was pleased to find the basilica relatively quiet this afternoon. There were still throngs of people, but at least there was room to maneuver. Weaving in and out of various groups, Langdon guided Ferris and Sienna toward the west window, where visitors could step outside and see the horses on the balcony. Despite Langdon’s
confidence in their ability to identify the doge in question, he remained concerned about the step they’d have to take after that—locating the doge himself. His tomb? His statue? This would probably require some form of assistance, considering the hundreds of statues housed in the church proper, the lower crypt, and the domed tombs along the church’s north arm.
Langdon spotted a young female docent giving a tour, and he politely interrupted her talk. “Excuse me,” he said. “Is Ettore Vio here this afternoon?”
“Ettore Vio?” The woman gave
Langdon an odd look. “Sì, certo, ma —” She stopped short, her eyes brightening. “Lei è Robert Langdon,
vero?!” You’re Robert Langdon, aren’t you?
Langdon smiled patiently. “Sì, sono io. Is it possible to speak with Ettore?”
“Sì, sì!” The woman motioned for her tour group to wait a moment and hurried off.
Langdon    and   the    museum’s curator, Ettore Vio, had once appeared together in a short documentary about the basilica, and they had kept in touch ever since. “Ettore wrote the book on this basilica,” Langdon explained to
Sienna. “Several of them, actually.”
Sienna still looked strangely unnerved by Ferris, who stayed close while Langdon led the group across the upper register toward the west window, from which the horses could be seen. As they reached the window, the stallions’ muscular hindquarters became visible in silhouette against the afternoon sun. Out on the balcony, wandering tourists enjoyed close contact with the horses as well as a spectacular panorama of St. Mark’s Square.
“There they are!” Sienna exclaimed, moving toward the door that led to the balcony.
“Not exactly,” Langdon said. “The horses we see on the balcony are actually just replicas. The real Horses of St. Mark’s are kept inside for safety and preservation.”
Langdon guided Sienna and Ferris along a corridor toward a well-lit alcove where an identical grouping of four stallions appeared to be trotting toward them out of a backdrop of brick archways.
Langdon motioned admiringly to the statues. “Here are the originals.” Every time Langdon saw these horses up close, he couldn’t help but marvel at the texture and detail of their musculature. Only intensifying the dramatic appearance of their rippling skin was the sumptuous, golden-green verdigris that entirely covered their surface. For Langdon, seeing these four stallions perfectly maintained despite their tumultuous past was always a reminder of the importance of preserving great art.
“Their collars,” Sienna said, motioning to the decorative breast collars around their necks. “You said those were added? To cover the seam?”
Langdon had told Sienna and Ferris about the strange “severed head” detail he had read about on the ARCA Web site.
“Apparently, yes,” Langdon said, moving toward an informational placard posted nearby.
“Roberto!” a friendly voice bellowed behind them. “You insult me!” Langdon turned to see Ettore Vio, a jovial-looking, white-haired man in a blue suit, with eyeglasses on a chain around his neck, pushing his way through the crowd. “You dare to come to my Venice and not call me?”
Langdon smiled and shook the man’s hand. “I like to surprise you,
Ettore. You look good. These are my friends Dr. Brooks and Dr. Ferris.”
Ettore greeted them and then stood back, appraising Langdon. “Traveling with doctors? Are you
sick? And your clothing? Are you turning Italian?”
“Neither,” Langdon said, chuckling. “I’ve come for some information on the horses.”
Ettore looked intrigued. “There is something the famous professor does not already know?”
Langdon laughed. “I need to learn about the severing of these horses’ heads for transport during the
Crusades.”
Ettore Vio looked as if Langdon had just inquired about the Queen’s hemorrhoids. “Heavens, Robert,” he whispered, “we don’t speak of that. If you want to see severed heads, I can show you the famed decapitated
Carmagnola or—”
“Ettore, I need to know which
Venetian doge cut off these heads.”
“It never happened,” Ettore countered defensively. “I’ve heard the tales, of course, but historically there is little to suggest that any
doge committed—”
     “Ettore,     please,     humor      me,”
Langdon said. “According to the tale, which doge was it?”
Ettore put on his glasses and eyed Langdon. “Well, according to the tale, our beloved horses were transported by Venice’s most clever
and deceitful doge.”
“Deceitful?”
“Yes, the doge who tricked everyone into the Crusades.” He eyed Langdon expectantly. “The doge who took state money to sail to Egypt … but redirected his troops and sacked Constantinople instead.”
Sounds like treachery, Langdon mused. “And what was his name?”
Ettore frowned. “Robert, I thought you were a student of world history.”
“Yes, but the world is large, and history is long. I could use some help.”
“Very well then, a final clue.”
Langdon was going to protest, but he sensed that he’d be wasting his breath.
“Your doge lived for nearly a century,” Ettore said. “A miracle in his day. Superstition attributed his longevity to his brave act of rescuing the bones of Saint Lucia from Constantinople and bringing them back to Venice. Saint Lucia lost her
eyes to—”
“He plucked up the bones of the blind!” Sienna blurted, glancing at Langdon, who had just had the same thought.
Ettore gave Sienna an odd look. “In a manner of speaking, I
suppose.”
Ferris looked suddenly wan, as if he had not yet caught his breath from the long walk across the plaza and the climb up the stairs.
“I should add,” Ettore said, “that the doge loved Saint Lucia so much because the doge himself was blind. At the age of ninety, he stood out in this very square, unable to see a thing, and preached the Crusade.”
“I know who it is,” Langdon said.
“Well, I should hope so!” Ettore replied with a smile.
Because his eidetic memory was better suited to images rather than uncontextualized ideas, Langdon’s revelation had arrived in the form of
a piece of artwork—a famous illustration by Gustave Doré depicting a wizened, blind doge, arms raised high overhead as he incited a gathered crowd to join the Crusade. The name of Doré’s illustration was clear in his mind: Dandolo Preaching
the Crusade.
“Enrico Dandolo,” Langdon declared. “The doge who lived forever.”
“Finalmente!” Ettore said. “I fear your mind has aged, my friend.”
“Along with the rest of me. Is he buried here?”
“Dandolo?” Ettore shook his head.
“No, not here.”
“Where?” Sienna demanded. “At the Doge’s Palace?”
Ettore took off his glasses, thinking
a moment. “Give me a moment. There are so many doges, I can’t recall—”
Before Ettore could finish, a frightened-looking docent came running over and ushered him aside, whispering in his ear. Ettore stiffened, looking alarmed, and immediately hurried over to a railing, where he peered down into the sanctuary below. After a moment he turned back toward Langdon.
“I’ll be right back,” Ettore shouted, and then hurried off without another word.
Puzzled, Langdon went over to the railing and peered over. What’s going on down there?
At first he saw nothing at all, just tourists milling around. After a moment, though, he realized that many of the visitors were staring in the same direction, toward the main entrance, through which an imposing group of black-clad soldiers had just entered the church and was fanning out across the narthex, blocking all the exits.
The soldiers in black. Langdon felt his hands tighten on the railing.
“Robert!” Sienna called out behind him.
Langdon remained fixated on the soldiers. How did they find us?! “Robert,” she called more urgently.
“Something’s wrong! Help    me!” Langdon turned from the railing, puzzled by her cries for help.
Where did she go?

An instant later, his eyes found both Sienna and Ferris. On the floor in front of the Horses of St. Mark’s, Sienna was kneeling over Dr. Ferris … who had collapsed in convulsions, clutching his chest.

By Dan Brown

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