Venice, My First Love

Click to open in full view.When I was just a child of 8 years, my siblings and I were sold into slavery after the death of my father in war.  That is how I ventured from Kievan Rus all the way to the “City of Water” and why I do not readily associate myself with any other city… Venice was my first love from the moment I laid eyes on it as a young boy.  I must say that I owe my rank, my status, and my life to my sire, Marius.  Who rescued me from my captors and showed me the grand life that this magnificent city has to offer.

Upon arrival through the portal in Paris, France we immediately boarded a private plane at the hangar of course, Merida’s only second or third time in such a contraption which I could only describe to her as a flying horse.  Of course she was nervous at first, the take off with all its sounds and lights would surely give anyone that’s hardly ever been around it some anxiety.  But as soon as we were in the air, she relaxed and couldn’t get enough of the view overhead. Luckily, we owned the planes and had them equipped with UV-protected glass. I had instructed the pilot to fly low just so she could take in the opulence of the views below as we made our way through France and over the Italian Alps, which included the mountainous city of Torino. She was overcome with emotion as we circled the city of Venice before preparing to land; something stirred in her as she realized she would now be part of this city and its people. We landed in Venezia Tessera Airport, familiar to her from her trips with Bianca to Earth.  

Click to open in full view.We set out to our home in Mira, Bianca’s family estate Villa Franceschi but only just enough for her to see the stripped down room that will ultimately be “The Baroness”.  She immediately had some ideas.  After a few hours spent at the Villa, we set out for Marius and Pandora’s Palazzo, in the heart of Venice, via boat of course once the sun started to set.  The Danieli had been long acquired many centuries before by the Romanus family and had been turned into a luxury, exclusive hotel. Upon embarking on our private boat on the way to the hotel, Merida was in awe almost everything around her. I could only smile and watch her as she took it all in. I was taking her in. It was like watching a beautiful butterfly emerge from it’s cocoon. Everything about this woman made me feel so alive and I couldn’t believe she had agreed to be my wife. Could two creatures damned to the eternal night really be this blessed to have found each other?

Click to open in full view.Once we got to our destination, we disembarked on the side entrance for a more private covered entry into the hotel.  Once the portiere opened the doors, I allowed Merida to walk in first.  She did so, affording me quite the view.  She stopped and her mouth flew open.  I stood by her as the concierge greeted us to much fan fare. They of course knew who I was, a Romanus, a Baron. I held up a hand, and the man immediately went silent and we stood there all of us as the fattorinos saw to our luggage around us.  I wanted Merida to have that moment. A moment to take in all the richness of the life she would now lead — gone is the misery that she felt as a young child; gone is the despair she felt at unrequited love. Now there are bows of the head, and curtsy, and formal announcements. Which we were about to experience.  She turned to me with a confused look on her face and mouthed, “What the fuck?” Ahhhh so un-noble of her, and how I loved that about her. I offered her my arm with a smile on my face which she took and did the same, and then the concierge called the staff to line before us and made the formal announcements as here in Venice she and I had already registered legally as husband and wife. The concierge in a loud projecting voice then said,

“Attenzione, il barone di Venezia, signore Armando Romano e sua nuova moglie, la baronessa Merida Romano entrare in questa sala.”

Which roughly translates to, “Attention, the Baron of Venice Armand de Romanus and his new wife, the Baroness Merida de Romanus have entered the hall.” Very formal, royal etiquette that only threw Merida into half-a-panic as the entire staff bowed before us.  With my right hand, I grabbed her hand that draped over my left arm and squeezed it reassuringly.  I whispered to her that this is customary when royalty is occupying a residence; to be announced.  It did not help to calm her as she looked around and saw that everyone, not just the staff, had fixed their eyes on us.  And then, suddenly a woman — perhaps another guest — started to clap and the whole room erupted in applause and bravos. A splendid but all too sudden introduction to our new world.

Of course, I motioned for the concierge to immediately escort us to the Doge Room.  The personal room of Pandora and Marius themselves, reserved for Romanus family members.  When we stepped through, Merida stopped, looked around and then just crossed her arms.  The fattorinos set down the luggage and I tipped them, the concierge was also tipped and he continued to talk to me in Italian, but I couldn’t rush them out of that room fast enough. And no sooner had I closed the doors, when I turned around to face the full wrath of Merida’s panic.

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“WHAT. THE. FUCK? Armand!  Is that how it is every time?!? I did not sign up for this. I can’t be looked at and gawked at like that, someone will get set on fire!  I am not one of those people!!! I mean… I know I love you, but that’s all I know.  How am I to pull this off?!?!  And I am so young in comparison, I can’t be out in the day like you can! They’re going to think I am some sort of introvert!!!! Dear god, what did I get myself into?!?!  Can’t I just go back to being a regular teacher?!?!  My students, my work that’s where I am comfortable! Armand, wh—…”, and that’s when the tears came and she just plopped right into the bed exasperated.

“Mi amor, mi mujer,” I said in my calm voice. “You will eventually grow used to it.  It’s not so bad, I promise you. And look at you, you are a vision my love. Those people would have stopped and stared at you anyways, because you are one of the most beautiful women in Venice. They are happy to have a Baroness finally.  To them I am just a mere man of 30-ish years that had never been married.  They know of my, how do I say, great grandfather’s marriage to a Countess Solderini, but for me… for the longest time, single is what I have been. So of course they are bound to take interest in the beautiful girl that has stolen my heart.”  I sat beside her and wiped her face with my handkerchief and then I kissed her.  I use my Calming Gift on her silently as I touch her and she benefits from the effect.  She looks up to me, “So they do that every time?”  to which I answered, “Only in the city of our domain, Venice.  And only upon our first arrival and when we get set to leave, they will also announce our departure.  And the Royal Flag will be flown above the house or in this case, the hotel for the duration of our stay.”  She nodded, understanding more now.  I smiled at her and then pointed up to the painting above us.  “I did that.”  She stood up on the bed and I stood with her, grabbed her by her waist and using my Flight Gift, flew us up for a closer view. Being a vampire does have its perks.

Click to open in full view.After we settled in,  I asked my beautiful Merida to join me on the terrace for a drink.  She happily agreed.  I had wanted to show her all the artwork that appeared throughout the hotel, some were of my own hand but most were Marius’ doing.  A masterful teacher he had been to me in the craft and I wanted her to see it all.  Once we got to the terrace, a private section had been cornered off for the Baron and his wife. We had a lovely view of the Sta. Maria de Salute Basilica and Merida just loved it. It totally helped her to relax, just to watch the night sky and the small waves of the water around us.  We laughed, and drank, then we’d talk about the places we were going to see this trip and we drank some more and then laughed some more planning to return to Venice shortly after our honeymoon and bring our children then drank some more.  The wines in Italy were exquisite, to which Merida commented that she could get used to having the finest selections of booze money can buy.  We laughed again. My bride was happy once again, thus I was happy once again.

Click to open in full view.This trip I wanted to just show her some of the nearer sights to the Danieli Palazzo that were within reach.  We had limited time before our big wedding back in Sosaria. So we visited the Sta. Maria de Salute Basilica across the way of the Grand Canal that same evening.  Normally they do not have it opened at night but being who I am I was able to secure a private showing for Merida and myself. Merida loved the architecture and the romance of it all, but did not quite understand what all the hoopla on Earth is with organized religion.  “Seems like a waste of time to me!”,  she’d say.  To which I retorted, “Yes because us strolling through this church today in awe of the art and architecture that went into it is such a waste of time, my love.”  She made a face at me, and then continued talking about the details of the artwork and asking questions of the guide that had allowed us passage so late in the evening.

Our next stop the following evening was the Piazza San Marco, more commonly known in the world as St. Mark’s Square.  We hid in an alcove and watched the sun set down before we went out into the open plaza. Just as the shops were closing up for the evening, the plaza filled with its evening spectators. The restaurants opened for supper and it filled the square with wonderful smells and the sounds of street performers. The night sky offered such a romantic look to the whole place. At the heart of the Piazza was its namesake, the Basilica de San Macro. Again, another church Merida commented. “What is with you people and your damned churches?”  I chuckled and said, “Did you know that vampires until just a few centuries ago believed that if we stepped foot inside a church we’d be immediately burnt to a cinder?” Again she made a face at me and said, “Yeah right.” We continued our stroll through the marvelous interior of this church that once again captivated my bride.  Our final stop took us to the Palazzo Ducale, known in the Western world as The Doge’s Palace.  

I couldn’t help but reminisce about the times that Marius and I spent at this Palazzo in the late 1500’s, when we went by Tintoretto.  A name that if you look up today would tell you the story of a famous painter and his son.  I told Merida about how easy it was back in those times to simply assume a new identity, which is not as easy now, and then I showed her… Il Paradiso. The 82 foot wall fresco painted so very long ago by our own Marius under the name of Jacobo Tintoretto, exalted as the largest canvas painting ever painted and I was known as his son Domenico Tintoretto.  Her mouth just opened wide.  She couldn’t believe her eyes. She pointed to the painting and said, “This… this was painted by him?” I nodded, smiling at the pure awe in her face.  She was allowed to walk closer to it, bypassing the roped off sections.  She studied the mastery of my sire’s work in quite a detail.  When she was finished, she turned to face the guide and politely asked if she could be alone with her husband.  They of course obliged the new Baroness with her request. When we were assuredly alone, she ran to me and hugged me. Hugged me so tight that I had been mortal, I would have not been able to breathe. She whispered, “I now understand why you loved him so.”

venice-provincial-institute-for-children-church-frontThe next evening we spent our last night at a place I knew would warm my wife’s heart.  The Provincial Institute for Children at Santa Maria della Pietà was founded originally by decree of the Senate of the Republic of Venice in 1346. The Franciscan friar of Assisi Petruchio collected the abandoned children of Venice and housed them in apartments donated by Venetian nobles such as the Solderini Family, who were great benefactors of the institute and now the Romanus Family has also been one of their greatest supporter for over two centuries.  The Church is beautiful, much more humble than the other churches which seemed to interest Merida even more. She asked so many questions which of course needed translation which I was all too happy to provide.

venice-provincial-institute-for-children-antonio-vivaldiThe history of Antonio Vivaldi was prevalent throughout the place.  The girl’s dorm was named “Vivaldi’s Girls” in honor of the great composer’s affinity to teach girls his music without simplifying it from that of what he taught his boys.  He believed so greatly in the accomplishments of both sexes being equal in the world of music. A man before his own time.

venice-provincial-institute-for-childrenThe dormitories were modest but clean, the people loving yet firm, and the nuns provided much in the ways of discipline and structure. The children were the stars and they took to Merida like fish take to water.  She’s able to warm her skin just so, so she is not as starkly cold as I would be to the touch.  Something very helpful when dealing with mortal children.  One boy in particular took right to her, a cute little fella with brown hair and dark eyes about 18 months old.  Named Antonio ironically.  I think she may just want to come back for him, but here on Earth, adoptions are very difficult. And for us in this position we hold, even more so for we cannot have governmental agencies digging into our records looking at our lineages and bank accounts. How would I explain that I am Armando Romano the VIII? But the heart wants what the heart wants and I have a feeling Merida’s heart might want this little boy.

And now we pack up and the Danieli gives us our departure announcements, which Merida now took like a champ. And we boarded our “flying horse” back to the Paris Palisades… and once we land back on Sosaria, we separate until we are properly wedded.  Something I am completely looking forward to!

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