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BIANCA
by Bertrice Small

Genre: Renaissance, Continental Locales, Historical Romance

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Bianca crept down the stairs of the house, careful to avoid the two steps that creaked when trod upon. She hurried to the front door to await her brother. There was a single lamp burning in the entry rotunda. Other than that the dark silence engulfed her. On a stool by the door the doorkeeper slept heavily. She stepped back into the shadows as she heard a soft footfall on the stairs. Georgio came quickly into view, and Bianca stepped forward. He said nothing, instead opening the door of the house just enough for them to slip through. The doorkeeper never even stirred. Bianca suspected her brother had drugged the unsuspecting servant, and found she was grateful. He took her hand and together they began walking. The streets were dark, and Bianca realized that without her younger brother leading her she could never have found her way. Several times her foot struck some object, and she stumbled, but Georgio kept her from falling. Twice she felt something - a rat she imagined shuddering run over her boot. The air for the most part was damp with a faint hint of rot. But the sky was growing lighter as they hurried along.

"We're almost there," Georgio said softly. "What do you want to do when we finally get there, Sister?"

"I would simply stand by the side of the road," Bianca said to him.

"Why?"

"You will see," she said to him.

They reached the city gate to the Venice road. No one had gone through it yet for the gatekeepers were just now removing the great iron bar that helped to keep the gate closed. They slowly opened the gate, and a small line of traffic began to pass through. Suddenly Bianca's ears caught the sound of many horses coming at a trot. She flung back her hood as the troupe of Janissaries came into view. They were distinguished from other soldiers by their red and green uniforms and the brown horses they road.  Because of the traffic coming into the city they slowed their horses to a walk. She saw him on his great grey stallion in the middle of the group. Her heart contracted with joy for he looked healthy and well. Darius walked by his master's side. It was the dog who spotted her, and ran barking to her. Amir looked in the direction his dog had run. His deep blue eyes widened with a mixture of joy and pain. Bianca put her fingers to her lips, kissed them, and flung them in his direction. His gloved hand reached up to catch her kiss, his fingers closing over it then opening to press against his heart. Bianca's eyes filled with tears as she sent Darius back to his master.

Then she heard him call out.  "I will find you, beloved!"

"Amore mio!  I love you," Bianca called back to him. Their eyes met briefly.

The troop of Janissaries suddenly moved on more quickly as the traffic lightened allowing for their swifter passage. Bianca stood for a long moment watching them go. He still loved her. It was all that mattered to her. She could go to Venice knowing that by the time they found a suitable man to wed her he would come for her. They would be together forever. Nothing would part them again.

"Let us go home now, Georgio," she said to her brother, who had silently and sympathetically watched all that had transpired with his sister.

"That was your prince," her sibling said.

"Yes," Bianca replied. "That was my prince."