From Chapter 1, Feast
It was a fool that began it, but it took a woman to turn it murderous.
Pride and lust, spite, greed, and folly split Florence down the middle in that harsh spring. By late March, when the Feast of the Incarnation gave birth to Christ’s year 1216, the damage was done.
Our city by then had rent herself into two warring parties. She split, like a stone splits when the stonecutter drives his wedge into a crack and sunders the rock into jagged pieces, never to be whole again.
Ask any Florentine how the rift began. He’ll tell you it started with a banquet, a fight, a man hurt. A marriage offered to make peace. A woman’s interference, a betrayal–maybe more than one–and a cry for vengeance. He’ll tell you, in wonder, that the great strife began at that banquet with nothing more than a fool’s jest.
He might even tell you that the fool played his prank, collected his purse, and danced away, not caring what he had set in motion.
He would be wrong.
All that he’s told you will be true until that last. True, but incomplete. There’s nothing in his account of blackmail, nothing of secrets, nothing of the bitterness of a rejected woman. Nothing of loyalty bought and sold. And most of all, nothing of violent conflict coldly planned and set in motion for political gain.
A fool began it; that much is true. I should know, for I am that fool, fool by profession and more fool by my actions. But before you judge me, know that the rift, like the crack in the stone, was already there.